Klahanie annexation meeting becomes tug of war
September 24, 2013
By Peter Clark
In a meeting that stretched over two nights, the King County Boundary Review Board watched a local tug of war over Issaquah’s intent to annex the Klahanie area.
The Boundary Review Board is responsible for guiding and controlling the growth of municipalities. The quasi-judicial body is empowered to make decisions on incorporations, annexations, mergers and more. It will decide whether to allow an annexation vote to Klahanie-area residents by its next regular meeting Oct. 10. On Sept. 18 and 19, it heard government and public testimony about Issaquah’s intent to annex the potential annexation area and more.
“We are a city of annexations,” Mayor Ava Frisinger said. “Annexations mean they will not have to wait for top-notch community services. I have seen Klahanie residents form strong community connections here. It is all important to us to let citizens decide the fate of their own neighborhoods.”
Frisinger and City Administrator Bob Harrison made the same case to the board that had prevailed during reception of a study this spring: Residents of the potential annexation area had approached the city asking to reassess an annexation due to their continued involvement in Issaquah culture and politics.
“Klahanie residents have been formulating policies and proposals in our community for years,” Harrison said. “They have been on our boards and commissions for years. The only thing they can’t do right now is run for City Council and mayor, or vote for them. They shape policy for our residents.”
In what had been a largely public, mostly positive discussion over the city’s study and interest in absorbing the potential annexation area, the meetings turned into a standoff between Issaquah and Sammamish. Sammamish Mayor Tom Odell and Sammamish City Councilman Don Gerend each gave a 20-minute presentation to rival Issaquah’s.
“We basically have a little difficulty with this whole process,” Odell said in regard to the city’s main concern. “The potential annexation area has never been adjusted to reflect the fact that Sammamish came into existence in 1999.”
He maintained that Klahanie had greater community and geographic connections with Sammamish than Issaquah.
“Klahanie is more connected to Sammamish than Issaquah,” Odell said. “We believe that voters have the right to decide whether to become a part of Issaquah or Sammamish. Issaquah’s border has just 3/10 of a mile and we have about 3 ½ miles.”
In addition, the board heard testimony from the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District as well as King County.
District General Manager Jay Krauss shared concern that voters would not be provided all of the information at the ballot, given Issaquah’s recent study to assume utility water wells from current provider.
“An annexation vote equals an uniformed vote,” Krauss said. “Issaquah has misinformed the Boundary Review Board and omitted fact and submittals. If you were a voter or a Boundary Review Board member, you would think that service would remain unchanged. In reality, Issaquah has an expressed policy to take over district services if annexation occurs. Takeover of district services will have profound impacts on customers.”
King County Senior Policy Analyst Karen Wolf, on the other hand, said the county stood in full support of the election.
“It is our analysis that the proposed Klahanie annexation is consistent with the Growth Management Act,” Wolf said. “The Klahanie area has been a potential annexation area since the formation of potential annexation areas. The proposed annexation includes the area in its entirety and does not leave any areas of unincorporated space. Klahanie has always expected being annexed to the city of Issaquah.”
All manner of public testimony came before the board: Klahanie residents desiring annexation by Issaquah, Klahanie residents wanting to be part of Sammamish, Issaquah residents wanting Klahanie, and Issaquah residents wanting Sammamish to take Klahanie.
“We represent a growing group of constituents, and we have a plan to take it to the next level and take it to a vote in February if we’re allowed to,” Rob Young, a Klahanie resident said, in favor of Issaquah annexation. “From a citizen in the community we are really just looking forward to being a part of a city.”
Other residents sought the financial security they felt Sammamish could bring.
“Sammamish has the money to take care of us completely and we would be in good hands,” Klahanie resident Mitch Millar said. “We certainly use the city and certainly love the city, and myself and quite a few members of Klahanie, a lot of us are interested in being a part of Sammamish. If the vote comes in, we would vote in that direction.”
Executive directors for the competing cities’ chambers of commerce offered testimony, along with former mayors, council members and residents.
The Boundary Review Board is charged with making a decision on the potential annexation election through guidelines set in the Revised Code of Washington. The board will issue its decision during its next regular meeting Oct. 10. If approved, Klahanie area residents would vote on the annexation in a tentatively scheduled Feb. 11 election.