King County carves up rural communities into service areas

July 24, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

King County could carve unincorporated neighborhoods — including Four Creeks and Klahanie just outside Issaquah — into community service areas, if a plan proposed July 19 is put into action.

The proposal is the latest in a yearslong effort to change the way county government and unincorporated communities interact. King County Executive Dow Constantine characterized the effort as a reform measure to ease access to government for residents in rural and unincorporated areas.

“These new community service areas will provide a vehicle and a point of contact for residents to talk to county staff about the things they care about, like public health and public safety,” he said in a statement.

What to know

Proposed community service areas

King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed community services areas divided into:

  • Four Creeks/Tiger Mountain for the area bordered by Issaquah and Interstate 90 on the north and to the west by Renton.
  • West King County for the remaining urban unincorporated potential annexation areas, including Klahanie, East Federal Way, East Renton, Fairwood, North Highline and West Hill.
  • Snoqualmie Valley/Northeast King County for the rural communities north to the Snohomish County border, including agriculture and forest production districts.
  • Bear Creek/Sammamish for the unincorporated areas near Woodinville and in the Sammamish River Valley.
  • Greater Maple Valley/Cedar River for the swath from Renton to the eastern King County line, and bracketed by I-90 to the north and the Cedar River Watershed to the south.
  • Southeast King County for the area between the Pierce County line and the Cedar River Watershed, bordered on the west by Auburn, Covington and Maple Valley.
  • Vashon/Maury Island for the communities surrounded by Puget Sound.

In a companion proposal, Constantine also introduced legislation to change the relationship among the county and the unincorporated area councils, a group of citizen-led boards responsible for relations between unincorporated area residents and the county government based in Seattle.

“We clearly honor the good works that those community groups do and will continue to be engaged with working with them,” Alan Painter, Community Services Area Program manager, said in a July 20 interview. “They are not going away. They’re very vibrant.”

Constantine plans to announce more details soon about opportunities for community organizations in each service area to apply for grants of up to $5,000 to spearhead engagement in community or civic activities.

The community service area legislation Constantine sent to the King County Council calls for creation of districts meant to reflect similarities in demographics and geography, plus existing administrative, community and political boundaries. The areas include communities without any unincorporated area council representation under the existing arrangement, such as Klahanie and the Snoqualmie Valley.

The proposal is the latest in a yearslong effort to change the way county government and unincorporated communities interact. King County Executive Dow Constantine characterized the effort as a reform measure to ease access to government for residents in rural and unincorporated areas.

The legislation calls for the county to host public meetings at least once per year within each community service area in collaboration with the County Council member representing the area.

In addition, Constantine proposed teams comprised of members from different county agencies to develop annual work programs for each area, and to identify a single point of contact for projects in each area.

Come autumn, county staffers plan to unveil specific initiatives for each community service area in community meetings.

The companion ordinance Constantine proposed aims to amend King County Code to change or remove references to the participation of unincorporated area councils on several county advisory bodies. Officials said the shift is meant to expand opportunities for more residents, rather than limiting the roles to unincorporated area council representatives.

In earlier decisions, county officials eliminated the $10,000 each unincorporated council received annually and told residents to prepare for changes in the councils’ role.

The 16-year-old Four Creeks Unincorporated Area Council acts as a liaison between residents and government. The organization also used the county dollars to host a National Night Out event.

Census 2010 data identified 16,500 residents in the Four Creeks Unincorporated Area. The existing area encompasses Maple Hills, May Valley, Mirrormont and other communities in a 38-square-mile stretch between Issaquah and Renton.

Census figures pegged the population in the Klahanie area between Issaquah and Sammamish at 10,674 residents. Klahanie is not represented by a current unincorporated area council.

The proposals mark the latest effort in a long-running campaign to change the way county government and unincorporated residents engage. In April, Constantine named Painter, a top aide, as the adviser responsible for the community service areas.

In 2010, County Council members directed Constantine to consolidate the unincorporated area councils in order to cut costs.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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