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AREA RESIDENTS TORN OVER ANNEXATION.

Byline: JUDY O'ROURKE Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- As Santa Clarita considers whether to annex Castaic and Stevenson Ranch -- rather than see them form their own city -- strong views already have begun to emerge among residents.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has earmarked $25,000 for a study to determine the prospects of forming a city composed of Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Val Verde and the planned 21,000-home Newhall Ranch development.

And the Santa Clarita City Council, which recently formed an annexation subcommittee, may help fund an independent study on the merits of annexation for westside communities -- perhaps in conjunction with the county study.

But residents already are torn.

``We like Supervisor Antonovich. I think he does a great job for us,'' said Stevenson Ranch resident Martha Harding on Saturday.

``(But) I think the structure is a little unwieldy. We think it would be better to be closer to the governing body, to be more local.''

Some note that the Santa Clarita City Council meets twice a month on weeknights while the county's Board of Supervisors convenes in Los Angeles in the daytime.

The West Ranch and Castaic town councils -- advisory bodies to Antonovich -- meet locally in the evenings.

Eating lunch on the patio of a Valencia Marketplace sandwich shop, Harding's husband Rick seconded her vote for annexation.

``It seems if we're in this community we should be part of the community,'' he said. ``It doesn't make sense to me to have different tax bases in the same community.''

Sales tax revenue generated within city limits helps pay for the city's parks and recreation programs and sheriff's services. The county pools tax revenues from its 88 cities and unincorporated areas to pay for improvements countywide.

The city's ``Shop Santa Clarita'' campaign urges residents to spend more in town, but some are unaware Interstate 5 is a dividing line.

``I had absolutely no idea there was any difference,'' said Noelle Will, whose family lived in Stevenson Ranch for 18 months before recently moving to a bigger Valencia home.

Westridge resident Darryl Pikoos, sipping coffee at a sunny table near the Hardings, said he favors annexation and is concerned his community lacks a solid police presence.

Roughly 17 deputies patrol the 50-square-mile city by day, 16 deputies by night. Some five deputies patrol the 500-square-mile unincorporated area day and night.

The city pays for expanded services not included in the county, such as an anti-gang unit and a program for at-risk youths, but deputies respond to emergencies valleywide.

Pikoos has two children and said he also favors annexation, in part, for the city's parks program.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted in March to implement a nonresident parks and recreation fee, noting the city was losing money by providing programs for those in county unincorporated territory.

Castaic resident Peter Fodor said it would be costly for residents of a new westside town to foot the bill for sheriffs' and fire services.

He recalled unsuccessful efforts in the late 1970s to turn the city into its own county.

Still, he is mulling the idea. ``If we annexed as a county, we'd definitely have more autonomy,'' he said.

Northlake resident Mark Allan chided the city for attempting to cherry-pick a Valencia Commerce Center annexation.

``Residents don't like the idea of the city trying to poach, pulling off prime income-producing areas of the county,'' he said. ``I think the city has to make their case for annexation. I don't think the city has made ... enough of a sales effort for the unincorporated areas.''

judy.orourke@dailynews.com

(661) 257-5255

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1) Martha Harding,

Stevenson Ranch

(2) Rick Harding,

Stevenson Ranch

(3) Noelle Will, Valencia

(4) Mark Allan, Northlake
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 4, 2007
Words:615
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