Belmont hopes to annex HIA

Belmont city leaders, long covetous of the high-revenue-generating Harbor Industrial Area, hope to soon annex the last slice of it left after San Carlos incorporated two-thirds of it in 1997.

But the city’s divisive politics stood in the way of previous annexation efforts, and property owners say the city’s difficulty in finding and keeping a city manager is still a concern.

The unincorporated 67-acre light industrial area between O’Neill Avenue, U.S. Highway101, Old County Road and Belmont Creek is home to a large number of businesses. Annexing it is a 30-year-old dream, Belmont City Councilmember Bill Dickenson said.

The 1997 annexation by San Carlos of more than 100 acres within the HIA killed some of that dream, however. At the time, 87 percent of the 230-acre HIA’s property owners wanted to join with San Carlos rather than Belmont, landowner Howard Jones said. The state’s Local Agency Formation Commission would not allow such a move, settling on the current division as a compromise measure.

Belmont lost $150,000 in annual property tax revenue from the failed annexation — funds earmarked for for the Belmont Fire Protection District. The decision also created ill will between the two cities. The remaining unincorporated HIA still contributes to the Belmont fire funds, but the city would like to see the land generate more revenue, Dickenson said — something that could only come about through annexing that remaining acreage and, in time, changing some of its uses to generate greater revenue and taxes for owners and the city.

The annexation can only happen with the property owners’ consent.
“We’ve had some dialogue with HIA representatives,” Belmont Finance Director Thomas Fil said, referring to the property owners. “They’ve developed a list of their demands and interests. We’ve developed a proposal that we believe meets their demands and interests.”

If the city moves forward with its plan, it will be the first significant talks with the property owners since Belmont let go of City Manager Jere Kersnar in July 2004. It has had interim city managers since, which remains a concern, Howard said. The HIA owners also did not like Belmont’s past history of “divisive fights” when mulling its options in 1997, he added.

“They have done a good thing, which is talk to the property owners,” Howard said. “We liked Jere, and we thought Jere finally brought aspectsof government there that we like. I think they need a permanent city manager in place, and we will be looking for that city manager to gain some tenure in that position.”

Other areas where the two groups seem in accord are having Belmont help pay for flooding improvements along the creek, improving access to the area from Ralston Avenue, and working outother traffic measures and sewage issues with San Carlos.

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