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Enumclaw mayor Liz Reynolds breaks tie, approves next step in annexation process
Editor's note: an expanded version of this story will be posted later and a full article will be included in the April 21 edition of The Courier-Herald.
Mayor Liz Reynolds cast a tie-breaking vote Wednesday night, approving the current step in a process that could eventually lead to the annexation of approximately 300 acres of land into the Enumclaw city limits.
After hearing from six citizens and debating the issue among themselves, the council split: Kevin Mahelona, Sean Krebs and Richard Elfers voted in favor of the resolution while Mike Ennis, Jim Hogan and Glen Jensen were opposed.
The item before council was to accept the petition submitted by landowner Jason Harkness and forward the matter to the King County Boundary Review Board. That board will send the issue back to the city, where it would need approval a second time before becoming final.
City Attorney Mike Reynolds noted when the annexation proposal comes to the council next time, it will be in the form of an ordinance, rather than a resolution. The key difference is that an ordinance cannot be determined by a vote of the mayor.
If the council were to split a second time, the issues simply dies.
The mayor became involved Monday night because Councilman Jeff Beckwith has removed himself from all discussions of the Harkness Annexation, citing a conflict of interest.
Harkness has spent more than a year working through the city system. To get the matter before the council, he had to garner support from property owners representing at least 60 percent of the assessed value of the area.
Th area being considered straddles 244th Avenue Southeast but also takes in two smaller parcels; the larger of the two is immediately north of McHugh Avenue and east of Harding Street.
The issue has drawn a sharp divide between those who wish to protect their rural lifestyle and those who own land and want the ability to develop it.
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.
In casting her deciding vote, the mayor noted the city is need of financial help. City staff has recommended going forward with the annexation, citing the monetary benefit of bringing additional land onto the city roster.
Arguing strongly against annexation was Ennis, who pointed out his objection wasn't to the Harkness proposal in particular. Rather, he objects to the process that allows a citizen to collect signatures before the city has gone public with all the important details. Ennis noted a couple of times that several property owners who signed the Harkness petition have said they are now against the idea.