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School office-farm complex becoming part of Manteca
The City of Manteca got the green signal to annex 107 acres including the Manteca Unified complex. - photo by RYAN BALBUENA
The first piece of a puzzle that ultimately will end up with Manteca and Lathrop city limits abutting each other along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that run parallel between McKinley Avenue and Airport Way has cleared the final hurdle.

The San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission Friday unanimously approved the move to add 107.5 acres that includes the Manteca Unified office complex, bus garage, and school farm along with 18 homes to the City of Manteca.

That means everything south of the railroad tracks that cross Airport Way and Louise Avenue in a northwest to southeast direction will be within the city limits of Manteca.

Ultimately, adopted spheres of influence – the precursor to annexation – has the north-south railroad line serving as the ultimate boundary between Lathrop and Manteca to a point north of Roth Road.

A number of impacted residents protested the move Friday but to no avail.

In years gone by protests by the majority of property owners such as those who own the 18 homes and two almond orchard parcels could have blocked the annexation. That isn’t the case now as the state wants to prevent islands or pockets of unincorporated areas being created such as Joseph Road off North Main Street in Manteca.

The annexation is taking place because the City Council refused to extend municipal water and sewer services to the 68.23-acre Manteca Unified complex on the northwest corner of Louise Avenue and Airport Way without the land being annexed to the city.

The district got itself in a bind building the $14 million without first securing a source of drinkable water or addressing sewer needs. The district’s water supply has such a high level or arsenic due to contamination from an old adjoining magnesium plant that district office personnel and students at the school farm have been barred from drinking for years.

Drilling a new well may not have been wise due to the odds it could be contaminated as well. The equipment needed to reduce arsenic levels - that were up until a few years ago was acceptable under federal standards at several Manteca municipal wells - may cost an average of $200,000 to put in place. The district’s problem, however, is much more severe. The district started building without making sure it had adequate water or sewer service.

The fire suppression system installed in the three-story building also may not have been effective with well water unless a big holding tank was put in place.

Several school board members balked at annexing to the city over concerns about the future of the school farm.

The city has repeatedly assured the school district that they are a “right to farm” city which requires anyone purchasing property within the city limits to sign a disclosure statement saying that farmers have the right to farm using acceptable practices which means complaints wouldn’t trigger enforcement. Trustees also were concerned about development pressures that could generate complaints directed at the school district over the school farm. It was pointed out that could happen whether the school farm stayed outside the city or was annexed.

Because annexing the district property would create an island of unincorporated land – a triangle bounded by Louise Avenue, Airport Way, and the railroad tracks – current state law means the city has to force the annexation of the 44.15 acres as well.

There is no disadvantage to annexing to a city when it comes to taxes. The tax rate will remain unchanged although they would have municipal police and fire services available after annexation.

The city also can’t force residents to connect to water or service lines but that option does exist if homeowners pay the fees.

Most of the homes are located along Louise Avenue behind a sound wall and a frontage road that was the original Louise Avenue.