Thursday, April 19, 2007
Deal on airport reached
By David Siders
The Stockton (CA) Record STOCKTON – For more than a year, Stockton and San Joaquin County fought over the city’s demands to absorb Stockton Metropolitan Airport and a share of its tax revenues in exchange for sewer and water services to a county-planned business park. The dispute, which peaked with a tense joint meeting between the county Board of Supervisors and the Stockton City Council in February 2006, was finally resolved this week when the two sides reached a compromise: The city will provide the development-friendly services without requiring annexation, and the county will back off its stance that decades-old agreements prohibit the city from absorbing the airport property, officials said. County and city officials on Wednesday praised the deal as a compromise that allows the 550-acre Airport East business park to move forward. But the terms of the agreement, which still allows the city to pursue annexing the airport, led some to wonder why there was a dispute in the first place.
“We kind of took this long journey and ended up more or less where we were in the beginning,” said Leroy Ornellas, one of two county supervisors who helped to reach the deal through mediation with city officials. He later added: “We probably should have locked ourselves in a room a year ago and figured this out.”
City officials said Wednesday they plan to pursue annexation of the airport property, which would allow the city to share in its tax revenues. The county would maintain ownership and operation of the airport if such an action took place.
County Administrator Manuel Lopez said the agreement gives the county the right to protest the city’s annexation plans. The county would have surrendered that right if annexation was included in the city’s sewer and water services agreement, he said.
It’s not clear whether the county would fight an annexation attempt by the city. Stockton Mayor Ed Chavez said Wednesday that he believes the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission, which decides how local cities grow, would side with the city because the property borders city limits.
County supervisors agreed to the deal in a closed session late Tuesday morning, Ornellas said. Later in the day, the City Council signed the agreement in a similar session.
Councilman Clem Lee said the deal is a victory for both the city and the county. It allows the city to argue its case for annexation before LAFCO while protecting the Airport East development’s progress.
The project will no longer be “muddied up by all of these past agreements that have been the source, really, of all of this consternation,” Lee said.