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9:20 AM Fri, Nov. 16th

Water group airs annexation fears

PRESCOTT Fears that a proposed annexation northeast of Prescott could increase the citys population by 27,000 and stress its water supply and roads drew about 150 people to a meeting here Saturday.

The Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG) of Prescott heavily advertised the two-hour meeting at the Granite Creek Unitarian Universalist Congregation to promote public awareness of the ramifications of the proposed annexation. They said annexation of the Granite Dells ranch would involve 10,800 acres, including state trust land, and add 13,500 homes.

Howard Mechanic, chairman of CWAGs public policy committee and a potential candidate for City Council in the September election, read at length from the pre-annexation agreement for the Dells. He also discussed population projections, water usage and other figures.

Mechanic sought to deflect the perception that he and others who are questioning the proposed annexation are newcomers and are anti-growth and selfish.

This is not about stopping growth, Mechanic told the audience. Its about deciding how big we want to be as a city.

Mechanic also raised doubts about the annexation proceeding.

I dont think there is one City Council member who will say publicly that they support the development agreement, he said. I think the existing City Council is trying to run away from this agree-ment.

No members of the Prescott City Council attended the meeting; however, former Mayor Bob Morgan and Tom Steele, a Prescott Valley Town Councilman who is up for re-election, showed up.

Prescott City Councilman Jim Lamerson and Councilwoman May Ann Suttles said after the meeting that the speakers at the CWAG meeting brought up an issue that is premature.

Lamerson and Suttles joined the City Council in January 2004, two months after the previous council approved the pre-annexation agreement for the Granite Dells ranch. Councilman Bob Roecker, who voted for the agreement, said a final agreement will require a lot of compromise.

The CWAG leaders are hollering wolf, Lamerson said. Give us a chance to put the chicken coop up before you start hollering wolf.

Lamerson said the council has not approved the annexation agreement, and has no intent to. At least I dont. If we wanted to annex this thing, we would have done this a year ago.

Suttles said that she expects the annexation application to come to the council in a few months because of all the heat that CWAG has generated.

Suttles also questioned the CWAGs literature, which stated that the pre-annexation agreement did not require the developer to pay annexation fees. The council approved the agreement before the city began imposing annexation fees for 250 or more acres in January 2004, Lamerson said.

Any kind of annexation agreement will involve a sizable amount of compromise, Roecker said. There is going to be a lot of impact on our community whether we annex the property or not.

The concerns over the proposed annexation prompted Citizens for Reasonable Growth to launch a petition drive this past week. Initiative backers solicited signatures after the CWAG meeting Saturday.

Morgan, the former mayor, said after the meeting, We should pass this new referendum so that the City Council needs a super-majority vote to annex 250 acres or more.