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Santa Rosa nudged to eliminate unincorporated 'islands'

It will be more difficult for Santa Rosa to avoid annexing small islands of unincorporated county land inside its borders under a policy adopted Wednesday by the agency responsible for setting the local government boundaries.

The city no longer will be allowed to annex only a portion of small islands, defined as those with fewer than 12 registered voters, according to rules adopted Wednesday by the Sonoma County Local Agency Formation Commission.

Instead, new annexation requests will be approved by the commission only if the entire island is brought under city jurisdiction.

The new policy will likely apply to only about a quarter of the 52 such islands in the county, 51 of which are in Santa Rosa. It will not affect the future annexation of the largest island, the 3,500 acres of Roseland that remain outside city's southwest boundary.

"I think it'll provide more clarity and certainty that we can eliminate some of the smaller islands and provide better police and fire service to those areas," said Richard Bottarini, executive director of the commission.

The 11 members of the commission are representatives of the public, the county, and its nine cities and 54 special districts. Their role is to regulate the formation and expansion of government agencies to promote efficient government.

The commission views county islands as an unfortunate consequence of rapid city growth that need to be eliminated to limit confusion and inefficient delivery of services, such as sewer, water and public safety.

The policy shift is a compromise between the status quo, which encourages annexations of entire islands whenever possible but doesn't require it, and a tougher stance some favored to require annexations of entire islands up to 150 acres.

Supervisor Efren Carrillo said he favored the tougher option because he saw it as the commission's role to "push as hard as we could" for a policy that eliminates all the islands.

"The intent is for us to encourage the cities to annex all island of unincorporated territory," Carrillo said.

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