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Challenge to annexation tossed aside

December 05, 2001

Paul Clinton

NEWPORT BEACH -- A legal challenge to the city's annexation of Newport

Coast was dismissed Tuesday by an Orange County Superior Court judge,

leaving few options to opponents of the long-planned move.

"The court found that we did everything the statutes required," City

Attorney Robert Burnham said. "And we're pleased."

Simple Vote, a group headed by Newport Coast attorney Phillip Greer,

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had asked Superior Court Judge Derek W. Hunt to reopen the protest period

in which a group seeking to challenge the annexation can force a public

vote by gathering signatures from 25% of the area's registered voters.

On Nov. 16, Greer submitted 969 names to the Orange County Local

Agency Formation Commission, the agency which oversees annexations. It

was added to 103 protests already on file and appeared to be enough to

force a community vote.

But when a county registrar's late-November tally put the number of

valid names at 658, Greer's protest hit the skids.

The period to protest the annexation ended on Nov. 16.

Last Wednesday, commission executive director Dana Smith certified the

annexation, giving Greer only a slim hope to overturn it. Hunt's ruling

on Tuesday was another major blow to Greer.

Greer could not be reached Tuesday afternoon at his Newport Beach law

office.

City officials began viewing the annexation as a done deal again last

week after Smith signed the certification papers, Assistant City Manager

Dave Kiff said.

"It's pretty much on autopilot," Kiff said. "We will gear up to serve

the area on Jan. 1."

On Nov. 27, the City Council got the ball rolling on the formal

process of annexation by authorizing city staff to begin providing

services there.

Councilman Dennis O'Neil said he had never taken Greer's challenge

seriously.

"The suit didn't have any merit from the date it was filed," O'Neil

said. "[The annexation] was final when we took that action [on Nov. 27]."

* Paul Clinton covers the environment and John Wayne Airport. He may

be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail ato7

paul.clinton@latimes.comf7 .

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