Sonoma Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted to approve the detachment of an area in Bodega Bay from Palm Drive Health Care District at its meeting on July 3.
The area detached used the same boundary lines as the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District. The boundary was used by those who petitioned for detachment for cost-saving reasons as LAFCO requires a government-accepted boundary.
A protest group had tried to get signatures to block the detachment, but did not clear the threshold to halt the process.
“For the protest to have been successful, they would have had to have gotten 500 landowners. Instead they only had 50,” LAFCO Chief Officer Mark Bramfitt said.
The last meeting did not have much discussion and no new arguments were brought forth, Bramfitt said. Those who sought detachment wanted to get out of a district they felt was mismanaged. Protesters were concerned with the district’s actions, but didn’t feel it was worth losing a voice via voting rights in Palm Drive.
Palm Drive has seen its share of problems, which have left the taxpayers on the hook for $27 million in debt as of the most recent audit.
Now, Bodega Bay residents will not be responsible for debt that occurs after detachment, but will still have to pay their portion of what’s owed to-date, a process likely to span more than 20 years. They will also no longer be able to vote in any Palm Drive elections or serve on its board of directors.
Bramfitt said the LAFCO board felt protestors had enough time to try and gather signatures and denied the request for extension.
“The people who were protesting were asking for more time. The commission could have done a continuance — in which they say, ‘We’ll continue this hearing at next meeting’ and that would given them a month’s extra time, but the commission decided not to do that,” Bramfitt said.