Chico to annex Chapmantown, Mulberry areas within 5 years

Chapmantown resident Bill Story advocates for postponing the decision to annex the neighborhood into Chico at the City Council meeting on Feb. 17. Photo credit: William Rein

To the distress of some county residents, the unincorporated neighborhoods of Chapmantown and Mulberry will become part of the city of Chico within five years.

The City Council voted in favor of an annexation agreement with the Local Agency Formation Commission on Feb. 17.

In a 5-2 vote, it was determined that the communities of Chapmantown and Mulberry would be annexed into Chico over the course of five years. The decision had previously been delayed, finally coming to a vote since becoming a topic of concern in the 1990s.

Previously, the two pocket neighborhoods were under Butte County supervision with no representation in Chico and no ability to vote in council elections. The decision to annex will lead to increased taxes, Chico police and fire jurisdiction and sewer connections within the neighborhoods, as well as probable sidewalk installation.

The changes that will come about as a result of joining the city have been the subject of debate and caused controversy in the past, particularly about unauthorized sewer connections.

Many Chapmantown residents attended the council meeting to voice their opinions before the decision.

A back-and-forth exists between the city and the Local Agency Formation Commission concerning who is to blame for unauthorized sewer connections, said Ron Angle, a longtime Chapman town resident. He advocates moving past assigning blame and focusing on what the real impact on the neighborhoods would be.

Though most unincorporated community inhabitants in attendance argued against the combining of Chico and their neighborhoods, Larry Wahl, member of the Butte County Board of Supervisors representing District 2, supported the agreement.

“It is the logical thing, the common sense thing and the right thing to do,” Wahl said.

The sewer system in the neighborhoods is a controversial point of discussion. There is a concern that nitrate secretion is contaminating the groundwater in the communities, and 62 unauthorized connections have been established, primarily in the county islands. Ten of these are contiguous to the city limits, increasing the incentive for annexation.

Some of the connections took place because the city didn’t follow the procedures it should have, said Mark Wolfe, director of Community Development.

Mayor Mark Sorensen speculated that the cost of the sewer connections through the commission would’ve been roughly $58,000 in 2013, with Wolfe adding the price might be “$150,000 before it’s all said and done.”

Chapmantown resident Wanda Story believes that money through taxes is the reason for the annexation and that individual voices are not being heard, she said.

“LAFCO and the city lied to us by saying we didn’t have to annex to use the sewers,” Story said. “It’s unfair that we have no one to fight for us.”

Tami Ritter, city councilwoman, said she empathizes with the neighborhood inhabitants, noting that they have no one to speak for or represent them.

“But you do have a supervisor and a mayor,” Ritter said. “And with this inevitable annexation, you will have seven more people that can represent your interests.”

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @toeshd on Twitter.