Despite residents' requests for a delay, Costa Mesa is moving forward with its plan to annex a 14-acre piece of county land squeezed between the city's Eastside border and Newport Beach

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to start a seven-month process of getting the county to approve the city's absorption of the area, which already uses Costa Mesa's emergency services.

"Let's call this the dating period," Mayor Jim Righeimer said after residents from the neighborhood said the process seemed rushed.

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"I want to formally ask you to put this on hold for the next six months," said Liz Parker, who lives on Colleen Place, one of two short streets in the neighborhood.

Instead the council voted unanimously to move forward but delay the process by a month.

The county's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) is leaning on cities to annex small islands of unincorporated land trapped within city bounds like the ones near the Costa Mesa-Newport Beach border, according to city officials.

"In short, state law is really pushing this issue forward," city CEO Tom Hatch said. but noted that the council could still vote no on the idea.

LAFCO was formed with a mandate to make government services more efficient by pushing for cities to take ownership of areas not easily served by the county, Hatch said.

The organization has guidelines that dictate the kinds of unincorporated areas that can be annexed in an expedited process.

In this case, the Santa Ana Avenue-22nd Street island is well within the 150-acre size limit. It could become part of Costa Mesa with LAFCO approval after the city sorts out details.

That process is likely to take seven months, according to a tentative schedule laid out by the city, plus an extra 30-day delay suggested by Councilman Gary Monahan to push the schedule away from the holidays and allow time for more meetings with residents.

Residents like Parker sought a longer delay so they could weigh their options.

For instance, she and others noted, noise from John Wayne Airport is a key issue in their neighborhood, and Newport Beach — a leader in fighting expanded aircraft traffic — may have a better grasp of the community's needs.

Residents also worried that Costa Mesa might allow a developer to build higher-density housing on a 1.4 acre vacant lot in the neighborhood, which is made up mostly of single-family homes..

Righeimer said that would not be an option.

"This council has never changed the zoning of property," he said.

The area is already designated for single-family residential units in the city's general plan even though the document doesn't govern the area yet.

Costa Mesa would have to submit its zoning map to LAFCO before the annexation is approved.

In the meantime, the mayor promised more meetings with the prospective Costa Mesa residents in order to "wine and dine" them.

"I want you to be welcome in Costa Mesa," he said.