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Woodlake City Council approves MOU with County

Woodlake City Council approves MOU with County

Just months after questioning the legality of an agreement to share development fees between Tulare County and the eight incorporated cities, the Woodlake City Council has decided to move forward with the plan.

At its Feb. 11 meeting, the Woodlake City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Tulare County outlining plans to coordinate land use planning in unincorporated areas just outside the city limits as well as share revenues on future growth and collect reciprocal impact fees.

Tulare County and its eight incorporated cities have been in negotiations for four years to agree upon Memoranda of Understanding that outline how to implement city development standards around cities within urban development boundaries. These MOUs are intended to establish new urban development standards in unincorporated areas adjacent to current city limits so new development will meet city standards. The City of Porterville is the only city yet to sign an agreement with the County.

While both Exeter and Lindsay approved the MOU last fall, Farmersville and Woodlake were hesitant. Both City Councils held off approving the MOU due to legal concerns as well as continued negotiations. Woodlake City Manager Ramon Lara said Woodlake’s MOU with the County was an information item only on Oct. 8 because the City Council and City Attorney had expressed concerns and raised questions regarding the MOU.

At the October meeting, City Attorney Tom Watson questioned the legality of the agreement while Lara said City staff wanted to know if the County was going to make improvements to sewer and water systems in Wells Tract, a small community east of the limits. Currently, the County contracts with the City for water in Wells Tract and Woodlake Police Department provides support in patrolling the town.

There is still some uncertainty about the legality and liability of the MOU which has already been challenged in court by the Home Builders Association of Tulare/Kings Counties. Back on Oct. 5, 2012, the Home Builders Association of Tulare and Kings County (HBA) filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against Tulare County and the Board of Supervisors. The lawsuit states that portions of the Tulare County 2030 General Plan Update, as it refers to the imposition of development fees within city limits, and the County’s attempts, through Memorandums of Understanding, to have the cities collect those fees on behalf of the County, are illegal and against the California State Constitution.

The lawsuit cites several published court cases, as well as constitutional law, which clearly identify the separation of county and city authority to impose development fees only within their specific jurisdictions. The HBA is requesting that the Court issue Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and a Writ of Mandate (an order) directing the County to set aside their unlawful actions and conform to state law.

The MOU is the latest example of improved relations between Woodlake and the County. Also at the Oct. 8 meeting, the City Council reversed its decision to end its long-time agreement with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office for emergency dispatching services. In March 2012, the Woodlake and Lindsay City Councils approved MOUs with the Porterville Police Department (PPD) to take over after-hour and weekend emergency dispatching services for both police and fire.

Lindsay made the switch after the Sheriff’s Department announced plans to build a county-wide consolidated dispatch center for police, fire, and ambulance. The plans arose in 2010 when a county-wide committee was formed to evaluate and estimate the costs associated with the concept. The committee estimated the start up amount for both cities to be in the neighborhood of $300,000 with a $50,000 annual fee. Ultimately the consolidation effort failed due to the high costs involved for all would-be participating agencies.

The agreement, which took effect on June 1, 2012, was only in affect through the beginning of the year in Woodlake. Lindsay remains in contract with PPD. Under the agreement with the Sheriff’s Department, 911 calls in Woodlake between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. as well as all weekend and holiday hours will be dispatched through the Sheriff’s Department. Woodlake’s own Police Department continues to operate its own dispatching during weekday business hours.

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