Sunset group sues over annexation, taxes

They want the county to reject the annexation or require a vote while they say Huntington Beach must revise its application or hold an election.

December 15, 2010|By Michael Miller,

A Sunset Beach citizens group has filed a lawsuit against Huntington Beach and a county commission, demanding that the city and county either negate the recent annexation of Sunset Beach or require a vote among the community's residents in favor of paying new taxes.

The Citizen's Assn. of Sunset Beach, a nonprofit that formed in July to oppose the annexation, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Orange County Superior Court. The association seeks a court order directing the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission to reject the annexation or require a favorable vote on taxes; another court order the group wants would direct the city to revise its application to annex Sunset or to hold an election on the tax issue.

The lawsuit also asks that the commission, known as LAFCO, refrain from further action on the annexation until the matters addressed in the suit are resolved.


LAFCO put Sunset under Huntington's sphere of influence in July 2009 in an effort to rid the county of unincorporated islands. In July of this year, the city applied for an "island annexation" of Sunset, which applies to communities smaller than 150 acres and removes the communities' right to protest being annexed.

At first, the city declared that because Sunset was being annexed as an island, it would not be forced to pay new taxes. In November, though, the city announced that it had reexamined the laws and determined that it had to charge Sunset the same taxes as the rest of Huntington. LAFCO approved the city's application Dec. 8, although at least one member of the commission acknowledged that Sunset had a legitimate grievance.

"The perception is that there is a bait and switch, whether real or not," Jack Markovitz, the president of the Citizen's Assn., said in an e-mail.

A spokeswoman for Stern, Van Vleck & McCarron, the Sacramento-based firm representing Markovitz, said the case would go to preliminary hearing Jan. 7 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

According to the lawsuit, the association's counsel contacted LAFCO in July and September about the tax issue, telling commissioners the association believed the city was misleading Sunset residents by claiming it wouldn't impose a new utility tax. The counsel asked that LAFCO require the city to obtain a favorable vote from residents on the utility tax, but LAFCO did not respond, according to the lawsuit.

Huntington Beach Independent Articles Huntington Beach Independent Articles