March 18, 2014
An annexation that may make sense
Washington State Parks has asked the city of Issaquah to consider annexing Lake Sammamish State Park. The idea is worth considering.
As it stands, the park, even though it is a state park, sits in unincorporated King County. However, it is surrounded on all sides — except the lake side — by Issaquah.
As there have been plans to add some developments to the park, Issaquah has taken the lead in vetting those plans. But, once a specific plan is chosen, the county would need to get involved in issuing needed permits.
If Issaquah were to annex the park, then the city would be the one doing the permitting. Removing the county would help streamline the process. Although Issaquah would still need to apply for permits — from itself — removing one layer of government would likely help speed the process for any future changes to the park.
None of this means that Issaquah would take ownership of the park. Just as private homeowners and businesses have property that lie within the city limits, so, too, would the state. Washington State Parks plans to continue operating the park and would retain the ownership. State Parks would still charge entrance fees in the form of Discover Passes and would still pay the salaries of park rangers.
Issaquah might qualify for a share of sales tax revenue generated by any of the businesses applying to be a part of the park. At first blush, that seems like it could be fair. Issaquah will likely incur some small costs in the form of staff time spent dealing with the new land. The tax revenue could help to offset those costs.
As always, some hiccups may turn up in the analysis of the annexation that could mean the deal doesn’t work. As studies proceed, there should be some assurances that other localities, the county and citizens from outside of Issaquah won’t be shut out from future decisions, since it will still be a state park. But the idea is certainly worth the time and effort to take a look.