With four bathrooms, six toilets, six sinks and sprinklers
for a three-acre lawn, the Larch Clover Community Center needs more water than
it gets from its one-inch pipes, which are better suited for a small home than
a one-square-acre structure.
Especially since additions in recent years have nearly
doubled the size of the center, and consequently its already unmet need for
The center relies on water from a 40-plus-year-old well, and
county parks commissioners have petitioned the city to allow the center to
share its water.
Because the decades-old center sits just outside city
limits, Tracy will not extend its jurisdiction to accommodate the building’s
need for better plumbing unless residents in the unincorporated neighborhood
pay city tax for water, sewage and all other city services.
“You can’t just ask for water. It’s no city service or all
of them — plumbing, electricity, landscaping and all that,” said Mary Mitracos,
county parks commissioner.
Residents voted down annexation when it was brought to
ballot a few years ago by Larch Clover property owners, though the city offered
the tax without annexation as another option.
“Some cities have sort of trial periods where they’ll tax
for certain things to test the waters before they consider annexation,” said
David Beadles, the San Joaquin County parks director.
But residents in most unincorporated communities around
Stockton and Tracy like being outside city rule, Beadles said, even if it means
more of a hassle in the short-term.
“This is not unique in that regard. For many years the city
and residents have been going back and forth on whether it would make sense to
annex the area and the center into the city. The water line that supplies the
Larch Clover building and park is residential in size,” Beadles added. “I would
guess they outgrew it 20 years ago.”
The county allots roughly $5,000 a year to maintain the
center and pay its bills, and has recently focused on expanding it to keep up
with growing Larch Clover neighborhood.
Construction on a new playground just finished. For now,
it’s just the plumbing that needs catching up.
The Larch Clover community, which lies against I-205 off
Larch Road, is one of many unincorporated “islands” in the county that over and
over again refuse to annex into nearby cities and pay higher fees for the
services that come with assimilation. Others like Larch Clover include many
poor neighborhoods like Boggs Tract and Garden Acres in Stockton.
County officials now say Larch Clover’s annexation into Tracy
seems a “dead issue,” and that if they were to annex Larch Clover, it’s
unlikely to happen sooner than 20 years.
“There’s kind of been mixed messages over the years on
whether or not the city would incorporate the community,” Beadles said. “So
we’re trying to figure out how to get the center what it needs without it becoming
a part of Tracy.”
Because the lack of water in recent years, center employees
have had to look out for lawn fires, which sparked easily in the dry un-watered
“We had a bunch of them about three or four years ago,”
Beadles recalled. “And we’re fine now, but it shows that we didn’t have the
resources to irrigate the landscaping properly. That’s part of the challenge
out there. We’ve got to be careful.”
In the meantime, Beadles said the county will make due with
what they have — an old well.
“What we’ve done in the interim, to kind of help, is make
improvements to the well water supply, which we can’t use domestically, but is
good for irrigation,” he said. “And we can do a reasonable job with that, but
we need to think about where to go from there. Imagine if you will, your house,
and all of a sudden adding about 12 restroom fixtures and 12 acres of lawn.
It’d get to be too much to handle.”
want to hear what you have to say. Comment on this story at www.tracypress.com, or to reach Tracy Press reporter
Jennifer Wadsworth, call 830-4225 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.