Los Banos landscaper gets the OK of planners

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comJuly 17, 2013 

— A landscaping company moved a step closer to having its property annexed into the city and becoming eligible for tax breaks through a Los Banos enterprise zone.

On Wednesday, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended a pre-annexation development agreement for Ronny's Landscaping, 15901 Badger Flat Road. The half-acre property abuts land within city limits on three sides.

Assistant Planner Stacy Elms said business owner Ronny Navarro initially sought to be in a county enterprise zone, which provides tax breaks and incentives to businesses. Elms said Navarro approached Merced County last year only to discover that the well on his property is contaminated with fecal coliform and nitrates.

His business was told it had to stop using its water supply, but Los Banos officials allowed the firm, which employs 40 people, to continue operating. Ronny's also maintains parks for the city.

"They found the water well was an imminent health threat. With that we did an out-of-boundary service agreement," Elms said.

Although the city allowed Ronny's Landscaping to tap into its waterlines, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) told Los Banos it only allows out-of-boundary service to areas that cannot be annexed. Ronny's does not qualify, however, the service agreement is being allowed while the annexation is being sought. A change in zoning from agricultural to highway commercial is also being pursued.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Tracy Rosin said she's happy to support the annexation because the business is an asset to the community.

Elms said the annexation will allow the business to be part of the Los Banos enterprise zone.

"The benefits of being in the enterprise zone are tax credits. There's hiring tax credits, sales and use tax credits, merchandise credit, so it's a quite lucrative zone to be part of," Elms said.

Ronny's Landscaping will be responsible for paying for improvements along Badger Flat Road as part of the pre-annexation agreement. City Attorney William Vaughn said the improvements will likely not occur soon because, under the agreement, adjacent property will need to be developed first.

Commissioner Tom Spada said he's happy there's a solution.

"I'm glad you guys came to some resolution to help this guy out and keep those jobs in Los Banos," he told city staff. "I'm absolutely impressed. There were a lot of details in this, it wasn't easy."

The pre-annexation agreement will be voted on by the City Council and LAFCo will have the final say on whether the property becomes part of Los Banos.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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