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.”