The long battle waged by Sunset Beach residents to remain independent of Huntington Beach is apparently officially over.
On Friday, Oct. 5, an appellate court rejected an appeal by the Citizens Association of Sunset Beach, against the unincorporated Orange County “island’s” oceanfront neighborhood’s annexation by Huntington Beach.
“The issue of taxation without a vote was a legitimate legal question,” said Sunset Beach Community Association President Mike Van Voorhis. “Now that it has been decided, it’s time to move forward. Huntington Beach has treated Sunset Beach very fairly and I believe that our future looks very good.”
Supervisor John Moorlach, a member of the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission, said he was pleased with the court ruling. He said that the case would help the other 57 county LAFCOs in the state with their annexation cases.
Holdouts opposed to Sunset Beach's annexation said they feared the mega city of Huntington Beach would not best represent the concerns of the small beach community. Others said they were worried that Sunset Beach, which has existed for more than 100 years, would lose its unique identity and it autonomy in keeping its culture alive.
At issue in the appeal was the grass roots association’s position that Sunset Beach residents should not be forced to pay the same taxes as the rest of Huntington Beach.
The Sunset Beach group, which had held out against annexation after others in Sunset Beach had come to consider the annexation a fait accompli, filed their lawsuit in December 2010. They said the city and county should negate the annexation or hold it until Sunset residents could vote on an added utility tax and retirement property tax.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Frederick P. Horn ruled against the lawsuit in August, and Sunset has since been an official part of Huntington Beach.
With the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s backing, they appealed Horn’s decision. They argued that Proposition 218, which grants residents the right to vote on new taxes, meant that Sunset residents should be able to vote on whether they would pay the same taxes as other Huntington residents.
The ruling, denying the Sunset Beach was signed by three judges from the 4th District Court of Appeal.
Despite the apparent “nail in the coffin” of the issue, Citizens Association of Sunset Beach President Jack Markovitz has said that, although disappointed by the court’s ruling, but that the group is still looking into what possible option they might employ to continue their struggle.