City Council considers offering annexation to parts of Klahanie PAA

March 18, 2014

By Peter Clark

Issaquah might still offer annexation to parts of the Klahanie area — and that might take another year.

In the March 10 City Council work session and the March 11 Land and Shore Committee meeting, exploring next steps for the Klahanie potential annexation area took center stage. King County Elections certified the Feb. 11 special election results Feb. 25, in which residents in that area voted whether to join the city of Issaquah. Needing 60 percent to pass and for those residents to assume the city’s bonded indebtedness, the vote earned 49.47 percent in favor of joining Issaquah.

Council President Paul Winterstein identified five options available to the council for consideration in light of the certified vote.

“I want it to be very clear that we’re attempting to be very thorough and give thought to all the options that are available to us,” he said.


The five options

The council discussed these options in the March 10 meeting:

  • Do nothing with the election results.
  • Keep the potential annexation area while annexing a portion of it, which would take another vote from the area’s residents.
  • Pursue an interlocal agreement with King County to annex part or all of the area.
  • Adjust the city’s potential annexation area boundaries, involving a partial release of the area, while pursuing annexation of other parts.
  • Remove the entire potential annexation area from the city’s comprehensive plan.

The council focused on the fourth and fifth options.

“We could choose to change the boundaries,” Winterstein said. “We could look at the voting results and say, ‘You know that southern half, the numbers were so good. Let’s change our comprehensive plan and basically release the rest of it.’”

In the three southern-most precincts — Ranch, Klahanie and Brookshire — more than 60 percent of residents voted to join Issaquah. Those numbers gave weight to council members’ consideration to not release the whole area.

“For me, this issue has always been about numbers, and when I looked at the entirety of the PAA, it did not make sense to my mind,” said Councilman Joshua Schaer, the only council member to continuously vote against offering the annexation vote. “I believe, based on what I’ve heard so far, the results of this vote and the financial analysis that we’ve done, that it is very possible to pursue a small, limited portion annexation of the PAA limited to the Brookshire precinct.”

While the precinct boundaries do not follow the neighborhood borders, they still represent cohesive sections of the area.

“It is a block whose streets are contiguous to each other,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said. “I think the voters of that area made a statement — they definitely wanted to come into the city of Issaquah, as the voting showed. I think it’s important to take a look at their desire.”


What residents want

Both meetings lasted three hours, in large part due to the active participation of citizens.

In the months leading up to the election, political action committee Klahanie Choice began spreading the message that a vote against Issaquah annexation would stand as a vote for Sammamish annexation.

Sammamish Mayor Tom Vance has said his city is already “moving to get our house in order” to annex the area, but in order for that to happen, Issaquah needs to remove all or part of the potential annexation area from its comprehensive plan.

Most public comment in both meetings called for Issaquah to release the whole potential annexation area.

“Right now, we really feel like it makes sense to go to Sammamish,” Klahanie Choice Chairwoman Kirsten O’Malley said. “We voted as a whole, and this measure lost as a whole.”

She said she worries that the Issaquah council taking time to decide what to do, and possibly carving up the area, would affect chances for a Sammamish annexation.

“You’re jeopardizing our future,” O’Malley said. “If you start carving up the PAA, at what point do you carve it up enough that Sammamish loses interest?”

Most residents expressed exasperation with a process that has been studied and explored a number of times over the years. The prospect to divide the area caused even more negative reactions, with some referring to it as “gerrymandering.”

“We just had a democratic election and we’re not abiding by the results,” resident Karen Ditaroff said. “I’m not really sure where the city derives its power to carve up the PAA like this. That was not part of the picture, and I think that’s a real detriment now.”

However, Brookshire residents expressed hope that Issaquah would take the fourth option and offer another chance to join the city.

“I’ve always thought of where I lived as Issaquah, and I now live in an area which is a high percentage for pro annexation,” Brookshire Homeowners Association Vice President Mike Foss said. “We want to be in Issaquah. We bring immediate revenue. We bring immediate citizens. This is a quick and easy way to grow by 2,000.”

Former Issaquah Mayor Rowan Hinds said the low turnout of voters — 49.34 percent — did not give an accurate description what the area’s residents want.

“Sammamish has ignored Klahanie since the last election eight years ago,” he said. “Fifty-one percent of the area didn’t vote at all. I would bet that a majority would favor not having to change their address.”


“If it takes another year…”

The council’s discussion will continue along with the docket of how it plans to update the city’s comprehensive plan. Though he did not give a timeline, Winterstein said the “current target” to update the plan was June 2015. Under state law, cities can only update comprehensive plans once per year.

The Growth Management Act requires a major revision of those plans every seven years, landing on this year for Issaquah. Cities can receive a six-month extension on those revisions, according to city Development Services Interim Director David Favour. Should Issaquah plan to take one, any update made to the comprehensive plan by June 2015 would essentially count as a 2014 update.

More than anything, the council expressed the wish to keep collecting information so it can carefully assess what it views as the correct next step.

“We have to take the time to do whatever we’re going to do right,” Councilman Tola Marts said. “Folks up there first voted against annexation 23 years ago. They voted against it again 22 years ago. The Klahanie board said no to incorporating into Sammamish 16 years ago. They voted no again nine years ago.”

Marts said if the city’s potential annexation area was not divided in the 1990s, then the city of Sammamish wouldn’t exist. He said the council needs time to reconcile the election results with concerns it heard from the public.

“If it takes us another year, I just need people to understand that they need to believe this council when they say, ‘Here’s our priorities,’ that it’s really what our priorities are,” he said. “It’s really critical that we take our time. This is not a council that moves with unseemly haste, and shouldn’t in this case either.”

Many council members expressed a wish to see an update of the study done by Nesbitt Planning and Management that would highlight the cost and benefit of distinct areas. City Administrator Bob Harrison said a revised study would cost between $5,000 and $7,000 and take about three weeks to complete.

“It’s worth a few dollars and a little bit more time,” Barber said in support of an updated study. “I think it’s an important piece to have this information to make this decision.”

At the end of the discussion during the March 11 Land and Shore meeting, the committee directed the administration to investigate releasing part or all of the potential annexation area, as well as to potentially annex some of it. City leaders expect the matter to potentially come up during the March 25 Committee of the Whole meeting.

“The easiest path for us would have been to do nothing,” Marts said. “We realized, as a council, we had a responsibility to the PAA. I really ask for patience. We are attempting to do right by the PAA.”

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6 Responses to “City Council considers offering annexation to parts of Klahanie PAA”

  1. bryan weinstein on March 19th, 2014 7:18 am

    looking at the entire history of the paa, the two votes (now) and all the talk to do what is “right” and still ignore the votes of the people, it’s times like these that you have to admire somebody like vladimir putin – he wanted crimea, and he took it.

    city council, if you really want klahanie, stop with all this high handed political procedure, vote parsing by precinct (will we go by house next?), and explanations about how much angst this give you- just annex klahanie and move on. that way, those of us who actually LIVE in issaquah now can get on with our lives and have a city council that is actively pursuing what is best for those who live here now, not those who don’t live here yet! enough!

  2. C.A. Christensen on March 19th, 2014 12:19 pm

    From following this issue for many years, it seems to me, that had the Klahanie residents voted at the 60% level to join the City, the City Council would be quickly annexing them….all of them, just like they did for South Cove/Greenwood Point eight years ago.

    Or I guess, we should now be asking if the Issaquah City Council would be discussing what to do with the minority precincts that voted “no”….would they be given a choice to go somewhere else if they wanted to?

    I am glad we were not left in the middle like we were after the last vote. At least this time the vote was clear, and the majority of the Klahanie PAA residents agreed on something. However, I am confused why this vote, and the residents decision is not being respected, and why a pathway for letting them go is not being swiftly put in motion.

    Maybe I am missing something here. However, I don’t see the Council revisiting the recent bag ban vote by precinct to see if there are any islands of voters that should be exempt from majority rule.

    I also have trouble with the idea that I hear now being floated that this was really not a vote for something. That is particularly troubling in that it makes it very hard for a citizen to know when a vote of the people is real or not. And even worse, it makes one wonder if the only criteria for a vote meaning something or not depends on the outcome of the election.

    The parameters of this election were set by the City, and were for the entirety of Klahanie, not for individual neighborhoods. The election got less than 50% support, and really less when you factor in the 60% needed for the bonded indebtedness.

    We have elections all the time, but for example, I do not see results of State initiatives being reengineered to reflect how each County in Eastern Washington voted. There are many States that voted heavily against the current President, but they must live with what the majority decided.

    I think the idea of going back and playing with the results is more like how banana land dictators and faux democracies do things. There is simply no escaping that. Sometimes I don’t understand why things become so difficult, when the answer is so clearly obvious. We have a marvelous system, we just need to do a better job respecting it.

    It just seems to me that regardless of how Issaquah spins it, the politicians should step aside and let the people sort out and decide their destiny. The majority of the Klahanie PAA residents have clearly told us that they do not want Issaquah to make the decisions for them any longer.

    Lastly, I think what gets lost in all of this, is the fact that the City of Issaquah does not represent these people. They have been stuck in limbo for a very long time, and need to be given the opportunity to determine their own future, which is all the majority seems to be asking for.

  3. Kirsten O'Malley, Klahanie resident on March 19th, 2014 6:09 pm

    * Karen Ditaroff is a resident of Brookshire. The two guys who show up every time wanting to be a part of Issaquah are passionate and vocal, but they do not represent ALL of Brookshire.
    ** Former Mayor Rowan Hinds says three things and strikes out all 3 times. 1) 49% voter turn out is actually incredibly HIGH for a special election. It shows people care! 2) Sammamish didn’t ignore Klahanie. Their hands were tied by Issaquah’s refusal to give up the area which, by LAW, has to happen before any of us can move on. and 3) Nobody has to change their address. A simple call to the post office will confirm they could care less what city you list on the envelope. They care about the street address and the zip. Write whatever city you feel like. Try “Stranded by Issaquah,” 98029 and your letter will SURELY arrive!
    *** The mere “three weeks” for an updated study by Nesbitt does not account for administrative nightmare that will ensue, probably stretching Klahanie’s right to an answer to MONTHS. City offices will need to decide where to draw the lines. Stakeholders will need to sign off (police, fire, services like trash, water).

    Tell your neighbors — a hostage situation is developing and someone needs to know!

  4. C.A. Christensen on March 20th, 2014 8:11 am

    Kirsten, you are totally correct, three weeks for a study update is the tip of the iceberg. I suppose that it could end there if the financial results were horrifically negative, but I would not want to bet that they will be.

    Why? Two reasons, first the City has been in control of the numbers and study assumptions from the beginning. Second, Consultants rarely come out with positions that do not support the desired outcomes of the people paying them.

    Also, being able to pluck off the the closest and most affluent….ie highest valuation….neighborhoods in the PAA may well make the City money, especially if they can continue to ignore factoring Issaquah Fall City Road, and the other needed expensive capital improvements in the mix.

    The current elephant in the living room is still the recent election results. However, nobody on either side of this issue spoke at audience comments at the last City Council meeting. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a key mantra in politics, and clearly what many are counting on in the City to keep this issue alive.

    That means to lessen the chance of being held “hostage”, you and others need to speak up at every opportunity….especially at each and every Issaquah City Council meeting. Their best chance of getting what they want, is to pull this issue off the table and as far out of the daylight as possible.

    Time wise, if Issaquah’s leaders can get past the “inconvenient” election results, which they currently seem to have no problem doing, I think the one year estimate for the process to unfold is about right, especially if it ironically requires another “vote” of the people.

    Lastly, I want to wish you and everyone else in the PAA all the luck in the world…..this extended “process” is not going to be fun for anyone. And, if you do end up joining us, welcome!

  5. Randy LaMere on March 21st, 2014 1:00 pm

    time to start the recall petition, if the council won’t act the people will……..again

  6. Elections intranet on April 22nd, 2014 3:03 pm

    Election news clips

    Election news clips

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