The Bishop City Council heard from an unexpected guest while discussing an agenda item on Monday, the annexation process of approximately 15 acres near Hanby Street to the city.
The parcel is owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and scheduled for eventual release under the Long-Term Water Agreement, but not “scheduled for release” as written in the agenda item, said Inyo County Second District Supervisor Susan Cash.
Cash made an unanticipated address to the council while the agenda item was being discussed, saying that the Hanby parcel is “not scheduled for release” under the Long-Term Water Agreement and that the City of Bishop is not a party in the agreement.
City Attorney Peter Tracy told Cash that Bishop is a party to the agreement. Cash said Bishop is not a part of the decision-making process as to when the property can be released.
Cash said in an interview Thursday that her main beef with the agenda item was the specific wording – “scheduled for release.”
Cash explained her argument, which included a little history on the Long Term Water Agreement and the release of lands by DWP.
In 2006, the county amended the LTWA to include the Hanby property “on possible divestiture maps” included in the 75 acres set for release by DWP per the agreement. Cash explained further that this does not necessarily mean the Hanby property is set to be released.
Cash said the decision of whether or not the Hanby parcel will be available for release depends on many factors. She explained the last two auctions of released lands by DWP had weak outcomes. The failure of the first auction, Cash said, can be contributed to assessments of the property made during the state and national housing boom of 2006-07 but the properties going to auction when the market began to crash in 2008.
The second auction, in March of this year, was also not well attended or productive, Cash said, even after prices had been adjusted to the current real estate market.
The properties set for release are decided on by DWP and the supervisors. But, Cash said the supervisors have been picking the lands to be released with no disagreement or “kick back” from DWP. So, in a “convoluted” way, Cash said the supervisors are picking what lands to be released.
She said the supervisors will look at what will be the “best” properties to be released. She said she does not expect the Hanby parcel not to be released, eventually, but the parcel is not “scheduled for release” as stated in the council agenda.
County staff is working with city staff on the matter, Cash said.
Interim City Administrator Keith Caldwell said he understands Cash’s vigilance about procedure. He said he is working with County Administrator Kevin Carunchio in drafting a letter to the supervisors so the Hanby release can move forward.
“It’s all a matter of process,” Caldwell said by phone Friday.
The city will have to request annexation of the parcel from the county first, so the county can move ahead with procedural actions that would include deciding the exact size of the parcel, Cash said. The size of the parcel has changed, according to press releases and news reports from 2006, 2007, from an original 17 to 13 to 15 acres on the council’s agenda Monday.
There is also a matter of concern with city limits, Cash expressed at the council meeting. There are seven or so properties which have residences within city limits and 15 feet or so of their backyards in county property.
She said that DWP has hinted at the possibility of selling these easements to the respective home owners, and Cash said, she expects at an affordable price.
It will take approximately a year of environmental studies and public hearings before the annexation could be complete, according to discussions between the council and Caldwell, at a cost of around $13,000.