Mountain House is moving toward incorporation, and on Wednesday the board of directors for the community services district sorted out some of the remaining issues to be resolved before the district applies to become a city next year.
The board did not take a vote on the matter. District principal planner Rochelle Henson said she will use the CSD’s direction to put the final touches on an application that the CSD must make to the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission.
LAFCo is entity that reviews jurisdictional boundaries for the county’s governmental bodies, including city limits, spheres of influence and district boundaries. The CSD could take a vote on approval of its application as early as next month.
Issues that the CSD had yet to consider were the city limits for Mountain House, the structure of a city government, which operations and services would become the responsibility of the municipal government, and whether the community services district should remain in place in addition to the new city government.
The boundary of the new city would follow the lines of the existing CSD boundary, and be defined as the sphere of influence, a boundary that would still include some unincorporated areas. The city limits would cover most of that area, with the notable exception of GrantLineVillage, a group of semi-rural properties on the south side of Grant Line Road next to the Alameda County Line.
An ongoing issue for the city is whether that collection of property owners would officially become part of the Mountain House community.
“The reality is they probably wouldn’t want to, but we wanted to just let you know this is our assumption,” CSD General Manager Steven Pinkerton said. He added that the city would always have the option to annex land in the future.
“Once you incorporate then you’d see if you want to move. The only direction you could move is to the east, but first you’d have to become a city before you start that discussion.”
Also sitting outside of city limits would be the southeastern corner of the sphere of influence, an area that has been identified as potential residential and business park development.
The new city would also have a governmental structure similar to other small cities in San JoaquinCounty, with a city council responsible for creating policy and a general manager responsible for operation of the city.
The initial election for a city council would have voters choosing a mayor for a 4-year term. Terms for the four council members would be 4 years for the top-two vote-getters in that initial election, and two years for the third- and fourth-place candidates. The first election would most likely be held in the primary or general election of 2022.
The question for the CSD at this point was the council members should represent districts within the city, or serve as at-large members representing the entire city.
The board opted for the at-large option. Pinkerton explained that with the city still growing, districts could end up having unequal representation as some areas are built out and other continue adding homes and residents.
“With Mountain House growing so much, by the time we went four years in an election you might have one district with twice as many people, and because the districts have to be proportional you would end up splitting up neighborhoods if you did it by district, and I think that would be really confusing for people.”
“That’s always something you can change later on and go to district elections, but we think now it makes more sense to be at-large.”
Regarding continuity of operations, Henson noted that workers now employed with the CSD would take on similar roles with the new city government.
The board also agreed that it would not dissolve the community services district upon formation of a city government, but maintain it as a merged or subsidiary district. Henson noted that continuation of the CSD would allow Mountain House to maintain authority over its master restrictions. It’s a set of rules, stricter than a city’s municipal code, that allows a district to govern uses of private property, including landscaping, use of signs, home businesses and rentals, among other things.
Board member Manuel Moreno also noted that the CSD has agreements with other governmental entities that would become invalid if the CSD were to be dissolved, citing the Valley Link commuter rail line as an example.
District counsel John Bakker explained that state legislation created the Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, and the Mountain House CSD is one of 15 governmental bodies that make up that authority’s board.
“If the community services district were terminated in the course of incorporation – it’s typical that we would terminate the existence of the special district when you incorporate in the same territory – if it went away then you wouldn’t have the seat on the board anymore,” Bakker said.
The alternative would be to have the California State Assembly create new legislation addressing the makeup of the rail authority board.
“It’s not always easy as you thing to get legislation,” Pinkerton cautioned. “Once they get into a statue like this they might want to start changing other things too.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 209-830-4227.