Klahanie Park transfer revives annexation talk

December 15, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Klahanie residents want answers about what will happen to the community after Sammamish acquires Klahanie Park from cash-strapped King County.

Sammamish officials want Klahanie Park and adjacent Issaquah School District property. Klahanie Park and several other county parks were marked for closure in August as county officials worked to cut costs.

Before the transfer, the deal between Sammamish and the county will prompt Sammamish, Issaquah and county officials to redraw planning maps to remove Klahanie Park and the school district land from the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area — about 1,200 acres spread across several subdivisions and home to about 11,000 residents.

The park discussion has also opened a dialogue between Issaquah and Sammamish officials about future annexations, and whether Sammamish leaders would be interested in all or some of the potential annexation area — land bordered by both cities but included in long-term growth plans for Issaquah.

“King County planning policy says within the urban growth boundary, there should be no islands,” Issaquah Planning Director Mark Hinthorne said. “We can’t give up any part of that potential annexation area unless Sammamish is willing to take it.”

Planners in both cities would need to amend the respective comprehensive plans, or growth blueprints, to incorporate a redrawn potential annexation area.

Sammamish City Manager Ben Yazici sent a letter to Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger in early December to ask Issaquah municipal staffers to draft a letter to the King County Growth Management Planning Council, the group set up to guide development. Besides approval from the Issaquah and Sammamish councils, changes to the potential annexation area would require nods from the growth management board and King County Council.

Issaquah officials discussed the proposal at a Council Land Use Committee meeting last week, where members noted how existing growth plans limit options for the potential annexation area.

“As long as that PAA stays in Issaquah’s comprehensive plan, there are only two possible actions — either it stays in the county or Issaquah annexes it,” Councilman John Rittenhouse, the committee chairman, said during the Dec. 8 meeting.

Another remote option exists: Klahanie residents could incorporate the area as a city, though residents at the meeting said the cost to provide municipal services would be prohibitive.

Voters in the potential annexation area defeated a 2005 proposal to join Issaquah, even though 67 percent of voters approved annexation. But the Issaquah City Council balked because fewer voters — 47 percent — agreed to shoulder a portion of the city’s debt.

Issaquah and Sammamish officials discussed redrawing the potential annexation area in late 2007, but the proposal withered in both cities.

Issaquah and Sammamish are under pressure to annex developments just outside city limits because county leaders want to shed the role of managers of unincorporated urban areas, like Klahanie.

The park decision became the focus in the annexation discussion in August, when then-County Executive Kurt Triplett announced Klahanie Park would be closed. Sammamish officials then moved to secure the park. Issaquah leaders were uninterested in taking on the park and associated maintenance costs.

Despite the effort to keep Klahanie Park open, neighborhood residents worry about the move by Sammamish into the community — a move some Klahanie residents view as a prelude to annexation.

Klahanie resident Michelle Kolano addressed the Issaquah City Council last week, and said she felt uneasy about changes related to the park transfer. Kolano said residents consider the 64-acre park as a “crown jewel” in the neighborhood.

“We’ve been in existence for 25 years, and to be absorbed or partially absorbed by a city who only has 10 years under their belt is very alarming,” she said during the Dec. 7 meeting.

Development in Klahanie started in the mid-1980s and lasted about a decade. Sammamish was incorporated in August 1999.

“We identify with Issaquah, we shop here, we were here before there was a Sammamish,” Kolano said. “It just doesn’t make sense to us for a part of our community to be absorbed by Sammamish.”

In the letter to Frisinger, Yazici noted how Issaquah officials were uninterested in the park. Negotiations between Sammamish and King County officials will enable Sammamish to acquire the park.

Kolano urged Issaquah officials to reconsider the decision not to acquire Klahanie Park.

“We would really, really appreciate it if that sometime the Issaquah City Council would again revisit the idea of annexation,” she said. “And, in the interim, possibly think about taking over the stewardship of Klahanie Park.”

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