Councils praise plan for Klahanie-area transfer
April 15, 2014
By Ari Cetron
Members of the Issaquah and Sammamish city councils took turns praising a deal to transfer the Klahanie Annexation Area from Issaquah to Sammamish.
Sammamish members not only seemed to like the deal, but said they also hoped it would usher in a new spirit of cooperation with Issaquah after some tense disputes over the past few months.
The Issaquah Land & Shore Committee took up the drafted interlocal agreement in its April 8 meeting and unanimously recommended its approval by the full council.
“The general consensus is that it was great,” Land & Shore Committee Chairman Tola Marts said. “We had been hoping that this issue could occur in the context of a regional issue, and this draft agreement really does that.”
The Klahanie Annexation Area is about two square miles and home to more than 10,000 people. County growth plans envision it becoming part of a city. Current plans would only allow Issaquah to annex the area.
But on the Feb. 11 ballot, only 49.5 percent of Klahanie voters approved joining Issaquah. As a result, Issaquah is planning to give up the area, paving the way for it to become part of Sammamish.
The Issaquah City Council first saw the agreement during its April 7 meeting, just two weeks after Council President Paul Winterstein asked for talks to begin between the mayors of both cities.
“I think the expediency comes from both cities being motivated,” Issaquah Councilwoman Stacy Goodman said. “People wanted to know what we were going to do. And given where we were, this is a great result for everyone involved.”
Sammamish City Manager Ben Yazici praised Issaquah for working so quickly to hash out the terms of the deal. He noted that the election was Feb. 11, and six weeks later, Issaquah is ready to move.
“That is light speed in government in general terms,” Yazici said.
In negotiations surrounding the deal, which Yazici said were sometimes “intense,” neither city got everything it wanted.
Issaquah is going to have to work quickly to be able to release Klahanie from its plan by the end of the year. And Sammamish is going to have to commit to fix Issaquah-Fall City Road, setting aside $3 million as a start.
Yazici said he expects the project to end up costing a lot more, but the amount should be enough to get started on design aspects, and qualify for grants and matching funds from state and federal agencies.
Each Sammamish council member took turns praising the Issaquah City Council and Issaquah government in an April 8 council work session. Sammamish City Councilwoman Nancy Whitten called it “a very constructive, positive step for working constructively with Issaquah.”
The cities had been at odds in past months over a series of issues. Issaquah had a plan to filter stormwater near a pump that provides water to many Sammamish residents, causing concerns that the water could be contaminated. Issaquah has backed off from that plan and resolved the issues with the local water district.
A plan for funding Eastside Fire & Rescue had caused tension between the cities as the previous funding model had Sammamish subsidizing fire and emergency services for Issaquah. A new model reduces the subsidy while retaining the regional fire department.
The Klahanie issue itself had also caused some bad blood. Both cities spent the months leading up to the February election trying to woo Klahanie-area residents. Sammamish took other steps, even convincing a state lawmaker to introduce a bill, later dropped, that would have poisoned Issaquah’s attempt at annexing Klahanie.
All that is water under the bridge, according to the Sammamish council.
“The real key here is we’re repairing our relationship with Issaquah,” Sammamish City Councilwoman Kathleen Huckabay said.
Marts said building a regional partnership began with the backlash to Sen. Andy Hill’s (R-45th District) proposed legislative bill, which would have eroded Issaquah’s tax credit for annexing the Klahanie area.
“I think a number of Sammamish Council members realized that wasn’t the direction the two cities wanted to go,” Marts said. “It’s not in anyone’s best interests, and Sammamish council members took the lead to spearhead change with Issaquah.”
The Sammamish City Council is likely to approve the deal at its April 15 meeting, with Issaquah set to do the same the following week.
Even after that, the plan will need to follow three parallel tracks. Each city will need to update its Comprehensive Plan, and King County will need to update its plans as well. Five separate public entities will need to take some sort of action before the change can take place.
Some of those actions require notice periods and windows for possible appeals during which little else can happen. Only after all the hoops have been jumped through can Sammamish place the annexation on a ballot for Klahanie-area voters, a process that will likely stretch well into next year.
“As the author of both the council goals about Klahanie,” Marts said, “this is really what I was hoping for.”
Read more details of the deal at www.issaquahpress.com.
Reporter Peter Clark contributed to this story.