Annexation draws out emotions

Emotions run high when talking about people’s lifestyle and livelihood.

Both were up for discussion March 22 when members of the Enumclaw City Council considered a resolution that would pull approximately 300 acres of land into the city limits.

In the end, the council did not act on the resolution, instead choosing to continue the public hearing to the next council meeting. The item will be on the agenda when the council gathers at 7:30 p.m. April 12.

The area in question straddles both sides of busy 244th Avenue Southeast and consists of 106 separate parcels with an assessed value of slightly more than $32.6 million. The annexation issue was initiated by property owner Jason Harkness, who has spent the better part of a year working through the city system. To get the matter before the council, Harkness had to garner support from property owners representing at least 60 percent of the assessed value of the area. He submitted the required petition to the city in October.

A key factor is that the entire area proposed for annexation sits within the city’s Urban Growth Area, meaning it was previously earmarked for future growth. Because the land use designation would change if the area were brought into the city limits, the current population of 226 could swell to more than 1,600, according to city documents.

Last week’s public hearing had 26 people stepping to the microphone to address the council, some more than once. There were supporters on both sides of the issue, though more than twice as many were opposed to annexation as supported it.

Largely, the issue pits those who want to protect their rural lifestyle against those who want to develop their land.

City staff weighed in on the issue, giving a thumbs up to the annexation proposal.

“It is generally in the best fiscal interest of the city,” said assistant city planner Clark Close.

Figures provided to council show both financial gains and losses, but an annual net gain to the city’s general fund of about $83,000 if annexation were to occur.

Opponents weren’t on hand to talk about money, however. They appealed to council members to protect their lifestyle that includes open spaces, views of Mount Rainier and, in many cases, farm animals.

“I never thought this day would actually come,” said John Harderson, who expressed opposition to what he called a “flawed process.”

Nancy Morrison said she “found this little piece of heaven” five years ago, hopes to remain rural and complained of a lack of communication between the city and nearby property owners.

Teri Clark told council members the majority of the property owners in her area, at the north end of the annexation proposal, do not want to be included in the city limits. Clark has since indicated she and her neighbors will formally ask that they be removed from the process.

“We moved here because we want to be in the country,” Judy Hix flatly stated.

Others took a differing viewpoint.

One woman said she has lived in the area since 1978 and recalls when people worried about impacts of the Flensted development. That neighborhood has merged into the city without problems, she said, adding that she would like to sell some of her property and cannot do so unless it’s part of the city.

A Redmond, Wash., resident who owns 30 acres on the east side of 244th told the council growth is inevitable. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” he said.

The step now under consideration by council wouldn’t lead directly to annexation, but would instead simply accept the petition submitted by Harkness and forward the matter to King County’s Boundary Review Board. If that group signed off on the process, the issue would return to the city. At that time, the council could choose to accept or reject annexation.

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