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Newport Coast annexation halted

November 17, 2001

June Casagrande

NEWPORT BEACH -- In less than five minutes, two Newport Coast

residents put the brakes on a decades-long annexation process by slapping

down 969 signatures to stop the annexation that had appeared inevitable

until just moments earlier.

County officials must now verify that the signatures include at least

853 registered voters -- the minimum needed to put the annexation issue

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to a vote of Newport Coast residents.

"The biggest reason we wanted to stop this was because there was no

vote," said Phil Greer, a Newport Coast resident who, along with wife

Arlene, delivered the signatures at a county hearing Friday morning.

Added to the 103 protests already on file with the county, the Greers'

petition was enough to stop a decision by the Orange County Local Agency

Formation Commission to make the upscale community part of Newport Beach.

City Manager Homer Bludau noted that, according to state law, it's the

commission's decision.

"It's disappointing that 1,000 or so people in Newport Coast don't see

the many benefits of becoming part of Newport Beach," Bludau said.

The commission had decided on Sept. 12 to make the unincorporated area

of about 2,600 homes part of the city. A 30-day period to protest the

annexation culminated with the 9 a.m. meeting Friday. State law requires

that if more than 25% of the 3,407 registered Newport Coast voters

protest, the matter must go to a vote among them. If enough of the 1,072

signatures are in fact from registered voters, annexation is stopped

pending the vote. In the meantime, the City Council can review the city's

annexation proposal, and possibly even revise it.

Had more than 50% of the area's residents protested, annexation would

have been stopped altogether for at least a year.

"There was a disconnection between the committee [that advocated

annexation] and the people," Arlene Greer said. "The more you talked to

people, the more it was clear that the neighborhood-specific concerns

hadn't been addressed."

For example, she said, residents of the Newport Ridge community were

concerned what would happen to their neighborhood park.

The Greers were among a group of residents who gathered signatures

from neighbors to stop the annexation.

Newport Beach officials had hammered out a deal with the area's

residents that included $18 million in tax relief, an offer for a

community center and more responsive service from police and fire

departments than the county now provides. They were also quick to point

out that residents' addresses would not change and that they would not

pay any more in taxes.

"We love Newport Beach," Arlene Greer said. "But the community needs

to be involved with the process."

-- June Casagrande covers Newport Beach. She may be reached at (949)

574-4232 or by e-mail at o7 june.casagrande@latimes.comf7 .

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