City is being asked to take in land

The city of Enumclaw is facing the prospect of growing in size for the first time in a decade.

An annexation proposal that would add hundreds of parcels to the city roster is under way, moving through the process that includes decisions at both the city and county level.

Annexation was something city officials didn’t have to consider in recent years, as the idea was off-limits due to a moratorium stemming from the previously-inadequate sewage treatment plant. When the plant upgrade – the largest public works project in city history, with a price tag climbing to more than $30 million – was near completion, members of the Enumclaw City Council lifted the moratorium on platting and annexation.

The city is now dealing with two annexation proposals. The first involves a limited number of parcels at the east end of McHugh Avenue, according to Mike Thomas, the city’s director of community development.

The more significant proposal involves three separate pieces of land and, if successful, would push the city limits west of 244th.

Known as the Harkness Annexation, the proposal has cleared a first hurdle with the council and the petitioner is now in the process of attempting to gain support from those in the impacted area. He is circulating a petition and needs the support of property owners representing 60 percent of the assessed value of the area being considered for annexation.

But simply obtaining those signatures won’t guarantee anything.

“The city has three of four opportunities to say yes or no,” Thomas said.

For example, even if the petitioner is successful in obtaining the needed signatures, council members could decide they want no part of annexation.

If they are supportive, however, the issue would be forwarded to the King County Boundary Review Board. That board’s recommendation is returned to the city council, which is free to make a decision independent of the Review Board’s findings.

“It’s not a simple or short process,” Thomas said.

Thomas noted that cities are often supportive of annexation efforts because there’s a financial incentive to taking in more land.

“It certainly represents additional revenue for the city,” he said, both from property taxes and utility taxes.

But with the added money comes added responsibility. When land is annexed, residents turn to the city for police, fire protection and other services.

The city’s Community Development Department did an analysis of the Harkness proposal during its early stages and found the city would benefit financially.

“We’re on the plus side, but we’re not talking about a lot of money,” Thomas said.

A report to the council noted that the annexation would take in 315 acres of land that is now home to 243 people. The area is single-family in nature and could grow to 1,600 residents, it was noted.