Pubdate: Thu, 6 Aug 2009
Source: Huntington Beach Independent (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Huntington Beach Independent
Authors: Michael Miller and Britney Barnes


Neither Seal nor Huntington beaches allow dispensaries, which could be
a problem for annexation.

Sunset Beach, the community slated for possible annexation by its
neighbors, has been a burning issue for the last few weeks. And now
there's a new kind of smoke involved.

Residents and city officials are puzzling over the fate of the West
County Patient Collective Assn., a medical marijuana dispensary in
Sunset Beach that opened in June. Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, the
cities that stand to possibly annex the seaside community, do not
permit medical marijuana, and trying to sort out the legalities of the
dispensary if annexation takes place could be, well, a drag.

It would probably have to go to the [City] Council for a final
decision, but on the front end, it's illegal in Huntington Beach,"
said Laurie Payne, the city's community relations officer.

The dispensary at 16722 Pacific Coast Hwy. has raised a few eyebrows
since opening, and annexation or not, some residents would be happy to
have it gone. Greg Griffin, the president of the Sunset Beach
Community Assn., said he had heard a number of complaints.

I think everybody in town that I've talked to is opposed to it," he

Huntington Beach City Administrator Fred Wilson, who met with Griffin
and other Sunset Beach residents Tuesday, said the issue of the
dispensary had come up during the meeting, and that residents had
asked him if Huntington Beach could prevent other "undesirable"
businesses from moving to town if it annexed the community.

Staff members at the dispensary declined comment Wednesday.

While the debate over annexation -- and marijuana -- rages, the future
of Sunset Beach is still uncertain. The community will remain an
independent entity unless Sunset Beach residents or either of the
neighboring cities files an application to the county, an official
with the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission said.

Earlier this month, the commission voted to place Sunset Beach under
Huntington's sphere of influence, which is a prerequisite for a city
annexing a community. However, according to Carolyn Emery, the
commission's senior project manager, the process of annexation can't
begin unless Huntington, Sunset Beach or Seal Beach makes the first

During a town hall meeting last week, about 200 Sunset Beach residents
voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming part of Seal Beach if they
had to be annexed, citing the city's small population and the fear
that becoming part of Huntington Beach would destroy the community's
small-town vibe. The commission, Emery said, placed the seaside
community under Huntington's sphere of influence for three main
reasons: the fact that the area is mostly surrounded by Huntington,
the water services that Huntington already provides to Sunset Beach,
and the large number of children from Sunset Beach who attend
Huntington schools.

 From a staffing perspective, as well as the commission's
determination, it was determined there was really no geographical
connection from the community of Sunset Beach to the city of Seal
Beach," Emery said.

She noted, though, that the annexation process can't begin until one
of the parties files an application, something none of them has done
yet. Seal Beach Mayor Gordon Shanks said his staff is doing a
financial analysis and would be willing to take on Sunset if the
endeavor was cost-neutral, but said there are really no benefits to
Seal Beach.

I have some sympathy for how I would feel if somebody told me we had
to go to Long Beach," Shanks said. "I told them it's whatever you want
to do."

Shanks said Sunset Beach is on the City Council's agenda for Aug. 10
and if the council approves the changes, Seal Beach will apply to
annex Sunset Beach.

If more than one party applies for annexation, the commission will
consider them as competing applications, Emery said. If only one party
files, the commission can either approve, reject or amend the
application, and Sunset Beach will remain independent until an
application is approved.

Griffin said the residents haven't considered petitioning the
commission. The residents have hoped to stay an independent community,
but Griffin said he personally doesn't see that as an option anymore.

Realistically, we have to go with someone," Griffin

Huntington Beach Mayor Keith Bohr said his city is the logical home
for Sunset Beach due to the services the city provides the community.
In addition to water, he said, Huntington also provides backup police
and fire services to Sunset Beach.

If anybody's going to annex them, we believe it should be us," Bohr

What services would be provided by which city if Seal Beach takes on
Sunset is the "heart" of the discussions, Seal Beach City Manager
David Carmany said. Whether or not Huntington would continue providing
water and who would take over police and fire services are details
that still need to be discussed, he said.

When a city proposes to annex an area, Emery said, it must tell the
public what its plans are for land use. For the first two years after
annexation, she said, the city is locked into those guidelines, and
any subsequent changes must be approved by the Planning Commission.

She noted that due to Sunset Beach's location, the California Coastal
Commission would also have to approve any changes there.

Bohr, though, said he doesn't foresee any sweeping renovations to
Sunset Beach if the community falls under Huntington's wing.

If they didn't read about it in the paper, I don't think they would
know the difference from one day to the next," he said. "They'll still
have the same address. They'll still be called Sunset Beach. They'll
still go to the same post office." 
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