Cathedral City moves ahead with Thousand Palms annexation effort

Some would-be residents voice displeasure with city expansion plan, but may not get a vote as annexation study continues

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - Cathedral City is still interested in expanding that city's boundary lines to include the currently unincorporated Riverside County community of Thousand Palms.

Cathedral City council members created a subcommittee Thursday tasked with continuing to study an annexation effort, which would include 9,700 acres of land and its 7,000 residents.

That committee would return its report in May allowing the city council to vote to move forward or cancel the attempt.  The city began the acquisition attempt in 2008 and approved a sphere of influence report in 2010.

Patricia Saleh of the Thousand Palms Community Council said, "Thousand Palms, it's one of the oldest communities in the Valley and it's tried to incorporate several times."

Thousand Palms has undeveloped land Cathedral City leaders are eying for  industrial and warehousing use.  

Cathedral City Council member Greg Pettis said, "What's really important is Cathedral City really has no land for industrial, and warehousing. Thousand Palms has that for us so it's a big benefit."

The cities of Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage both looked into annexing Thousand Palms, but gave up their sphere of influence interests years ago after studies concluded it would have been too costly.

Today, many would-be residents are not excited about going to Cathedral City, a city struggling with its own finances.

Thousand Palms resident Tim Petek said, "They don't want us as a community, they want our taxes."   Petek added, "This is something a lot of residents are starting to talk and get riled up about.  There's a chance to stop this."

Thousand Palms residents may not get a chance to vote on the annexation.  Saleh said any effort to stop the annexation would require a formal protest by 25 percent of property owners or 25 percent of Thousand Palms' registered voters.  The annexation effort would be canceled with 50 percent of registered voters signing petitions in protest.

That might give hope to Thousand Palms resident Sherry Fahrion, who said, "If this were to get on a ballot it wouldn't pass."  

Saleh said a feasibility study was all positive, suggesting the annexation would bring many advantages to Thousand Palms residents who would keep their current Cal-Fire protection services, but would turn to Cathedral City for law enforcement.  The police switch would reportedly double police patrols.

If all goes as planned, and without additional challenges, the annexation effort could be completed within 8 months.

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