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The path of Roseland's annexation into Santa Rosa has become prickly because city and Sonoma County officials have been unable to agree on the cost of new services and how to offset that expense.

Among the possibilities that have been discussed are including areas of Rincon Valley or south Santa Rosa Avenue in the annexation.

A city-funded analysis estimates costs for services such as fire and police will be $2.7 million a year more than tax revenues will generate. The county's analyst disagrees, putting the cost at about $1.7 million a year.

More troubling than the million-dollar gap is an emerging chasm over what other unincorporated areas the county may be willing to cede to balance city expenditures and revenues.

City officials have their eye on residential sections of Rincon Valley north of Badger Road, the Los Alamos Road area and Santa Rosa Avenue, which is lucrative because it generates about $59 million annually chiefly through business taxes.

All those areas are within the city's urban growth boundary, though they remain in the unincorporated area of the county.

County officials say they are averse to striking a deal that involves trading unincorporated sections. They are insisting that the city cease piecemeal annexations and absorb about a dozen unincorporated islands west of Highway 101.

"We are trying to maintain the focus on southwest," said Lori Norton, deputy county administrator. "We are concerned that the focus has shifted to include areas that residents have not expressed interest in annexation."

Wayne Goldberg, the city's advanced planning director, concedes "not all of the residents of these additional areas are assumed to favor annexation." But, he says, maybe it's time to ask.

City and county administration officials plan on two meetings in April and one in May before returning to their respective governing boards with another report on negotiations. Goldberg said the likely scenario is for an agreement on which areas to annex, followed by a survey of sentiment by residents and business operators in the affected areas.

Roseland annexation is taking much longer than anticipated by some, as evidenced by optimistic pronouncements from proponents last summer that Roseland's 900 unincorporated acres and about 6,000 residents could be part of the city before 2008.

"From the time that we all agree, it will take two or three years to accomplish," Goldberg said.

Further negotiations will center on bridging the gap in annexation cost estimates and on agreeing which areas will be merged into city limits.

Supervisor Paul Kelley, who serves as the county's representative to the Local Area Formation Commission, which rules on annexations, said the county's costs of annexations estimates were "reasonable" and the city's were not.

"LAFCO started this by denying annexations in Southwest Santa Rosa that create even more islands," Kelley said. "LAFCO is very committed to making sure there is some sort of agreement between the city and county."

Goldberg said city council members understand county officials are reluctant to part with revenue-producing areas.

South Santa Rosa Avenue, according to county estimates, produces about $7.3 million annually in revenues, including $2.5 million in sales tax revenue, mostly from the commercial area from Bellevue Avenue to the Rohnert Park city limit.

Goldberg said the city council wants Roseland annexation to be phased in over several years. However, he added, "it will take areas other than just the Southwest to make this acceptable."

You can reach Staff Writer Bleys W. Rose at 521-5431 or bleys.rose@pressdemocrat.com.