On November 12, Craig Baracco reported in the Amador Ledger-Dispatch that the Jackson City Council asked city staff to research adding Martell into the city’s sphere of influence (SOI). I talked with Jackson City Manager Yvonne Kimball about this effort, the history of adding Martell to the SOI, and the results of a recent “cleanup” city annexation.
Each county in California has a LAFCO or Local Agency Formation Commission. This independent regulatory commission controls the boundaries of cities and most special districts. Five people make up the Amador County LAFCO Board: two members of the Board of Supervisors, two members representing the cities within the county, and one member representing the public at large.
Kimball noted that the city has not yet decided to vote on the annexation of Martell. “The City of Jackson has no annexation proposals at this point,” she said. The Amador County LAFCO led a clean-up annexation application for the city of Jackson. That action, Kimball explained, “clarified boundary discrepancies for a few pieces of properties and has been approved by LAFCO, the City of Jackson, and Amador County.”
Growing the Sphere
Kimball noted that Martell isn’t within the city’s Sphere of Influence (SOI) just yet. SOI, she explained, “is an area that is outside of city’s political bounds where the city has demonstrated ability to provide efficient service to.” The map below shows the current Jackson city boundaries as well as its SOI. (Click here or click the map for a larger PDF version that will open in a new browser tab.)
At its November 8 meeting, the Jackson City Council directed city staff to study expanding the city SOI to include the Martell area. If staff recommends expansion to the SOI and the City Council formally approves the recommendation, it would be the first attempt to expand the city SOI since the early 2000s. The Amador County LAFCO rejected that earlier effort.
Why expand? “This direction was given chiefly for the reason of efficient service provisions,” Kimball said, “because the city provides water and fire services to the area already and is capable of providing sewer services.”
She also noted that expansion could give more control for both the city of Jackson as well as Martell residents. “Although Jackson serves Martell, Jackson doesn’t have the ability to exercise necessary regulatory authorities to protect public safety and wellbeing in Martell,” she said. “Conversely, property owners or voters who are located in Martell do not have the same political influence that Jackson residents have on municipal affairs.”
Kimball said that usually, expansion of a city’s Sphere of Influence leads to the annexation of the area within the sphere. “It makes more sense to annex when properties are already within the city’s Sphere of Influence,” she noted. And if LAFCO approves the SOI modification in 2022, Kimball said, “it’d be logical to consider annexation next.”
She added that one key objective of annexation is to guide urban development away from prime agricultural land and open space. “That, in turn, promotes orderly growth and discourages urban sprawl,” Kimball added.
Annexation approval would require negotiations and agreements between several different agencies including Amador County, the City of Sutter Creek, the Amador Water Agency, and the Amador Fire Protection District. Topics that would require agreement include political and service boundary modifications as well as revised tax sharing.
So, what happens if we get to a point where the city has an expanded SOI and the Jackson City Council approves an annexation request? “Political support from property and business owners would mean a great deal,” Kimball said.
But even if the city doesn’t approve annexation, property owners in Martell could once they’re part of the Jackson SOI. “When property owners initiate annexation actions,” Kimball said, “they are usually driven by the desire for better or more efficient services, as well as greater influence on City of Jackson affairs.”
If you want to know more about LAFCO and its processes, you can view the Understanding LAFCO webpage on the county website. And if you want to learn more about Jackson’s stance and process for expanding the SOI, e-mail Kimball or call the city at 209-223-1646.
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