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For 60 years, Roseland residents have lived under the jurisdiction of a county able to provide only a rural level of services while increasingly encircled by a city that couldn't afford to give them much better.

But Sonoma County's largest unincorporated island, and at 6,000 residents its most populated, is at the center of talks that could have Roseland residents calling Santa Rosa home.

For the past two years, city and county officials have been discussing what is seen as Roseland's inevitable transfer to the city. Negotiations have intensified in the past several months.

On Tuesday, the City Council and county Board of Supervisors will receive updates and be asked for direction on how to proceed.

"This is a confirmation point," said Councilman Mike Martini, who has been involved in the talks. "We've been marching down a road, and now we want to make sure the troops are with us."

There is one huge stumbling block. It is money, specifically how much it will cost to provide municipal services to a neighborhood raised on a rural level of service.

A report prepared by city consultants says that providing police, fire and other services will cost $33.5 million more than the city gains in tax revenue in the first 10 years after annexation.

Most of that deficit, about $27 million, is attributed to a higher level of policing proposed by the city. A county consultant said the figures are inflated and put the overall deficit at $7.3 million.

Both sides expect to have their consultants get together amid hopes they can reach agreement on what the actual deficit will be.

The city report also says that annexing Roseland and a 167-acre tract on the west edge of Santa Rosa surrounding Wright Elementary School will require $108 million over the next 20 years to match the infrastructure - streets, utilities, parks - found in the city.

However, city officials say that isn't their primary concern, noting plenty of funding methods - redevelopment money, federal grants and development fees - probably will be available for those upgrades.

Martini conceded "there is no benefit to the city at all" if financial considerations are the only factor when it comes to Roseland.

"But we need to consider the community," he said. "The residents there already consider it a part of Santa Rosa and they have the expectations to have the same level of services."

Once the consultants determine what the cost is likely to be, negotiations will determine how much each side pays. Both sides hope to have an agreement by June 30.

City Manager Jeff Kolin said he's optimistic "we can come up with creative solutions ... to close the gap."

Neither city nor county officials doubt the annexation of the 476 acres of Roseland remaining in the county eventually will occur. The city annexed 300 acres 10 years ago under pressure from a county land use agency that contends such islands don't make logistical or economic sense.

"More and more people realize it's ridiculous to have this unincorporated island," County Administrator Bob Deis said.

"It's very inefficient," he said, alluding to the fact that county workers provide law enforcement and maintain roads and other infrastructure in an area surrounded by the city.

"It's irrational to have two local governments involved in the same neighborhood," said John Lowry, executive director for Burbank Housing Management Corp., whose plan to build 250 low-income units is stuck on hold until Roseland's fate is decided.

'You just gotta get out of here:' Read the Mercury News story here


Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Roseland's future may be the linchpin to the future development of southwest Santa Rosa.

The Sonoma County Local Agency Formation Commission, which has final say over annexations, told Santa Rosa two years ago it would no longer approve annexation requests in the southwest until a plan was developed to eventually annex Roseland.

Chuck Regalia, Santa Rosa's community development director, said LAFCO's stance has put on hold two annexation proposals that would add about about 150 acres and room to build more than 1,000 homes.

For the past two decades, Roseland has been a sticking point for the city and county.

Because it was built to rural standards, the city has been reticent to annex it due to the cost it would incur. And Roseland residents, through elections and surveys, have rejected cityhood, citing a desire to maintain their independence and rural lifestyle.

City and county officials think that mind-set has changed to the point most Roselanders now favor becoming official Santa Rosans. That is important because any annexation could be overturned by a vote of the affected residents.

"They are more and more wanting a municipal level of service," Deis said. "They want to see enhanced commercial development, more retail services and shopping as well."

"People want their problems solved, and they could not care less about which governmental agency does it," agreed Wayne Goldberg, the city's advance planning director.

Santa Rosa Mayor Bob Blanchard said if the funding gap is too large, it might make sense to also annex smaller county islands within the city that don't require a wealth of services.

Some of the money those annexations would generate could be used to offset costs of the Roseland annexation, he said.

"It's going to be a balancing act," he said.

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