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Issaquah weighing annexation proposal
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
After nearly three years of debate, the Issaquah City Council appears ready to move forward with an annexation plan that would nearly double its population and raise the profile of this former agricultural community.
"It's huge," said Councilman Bill Conley. "With more population, we can speak with a louder voice."
Annexation of two areas — Klahanie and South Cove/Greenwood Point — would bring about 13,000 new residents to Issaquah, raising the total population to more than 28,000. The added residents would cost about $5.2 million in annual city services, with police and fire comprising the largest portion.
Annexation has been discussed since 2002, but the city got a push in November when King County offered Issaquah $850,000 to help offset the costs of absorbing Klahanie. The city has a deadline of Jan. 30 to agree to the county's offer.
The county is promoting annexations of unincorporated areas because it can't afford to pay for their services, said Karen Reed, a county consultant on the annexation project. It set up a $10 million incentive fund last year to alleviate some of the initial financial burden to cities that annex neighborhoods. "The county is suffering through its own financial crisis," Reed said. "For the foreseeable future, the county is not in the position to maintain service levels to these areas. Cities are in a better position to provide urban services."
Klahanie, a community of more than 10,000 residents in single-family homes, apartments and condominiums, opened in 1985 and was one of the first master-planned communities in the Northwest.
A city study last year found that startup costs of buying new equipment and bringing roads up to standard in Klahanie would be about $1.8 million.
The study also looked at the costs of annexing the areas of the South Cove/Greenwood Point neighborhood, a 400-acre area bordering the southwest end of Lake Sammamish. Those costs would be about $1 million.
The county isn't offering incentive money to annex South Cove/Greenwood Point because it would only add about 3,000 residents, Reed said.
If the areas are annexed, they would generate about $4.2 million in revenue through a combination of sales taxes, criminal-justice revenue and business and occupation taxes — about $1 million less than it will cost the city to provide services to them. But the boost in population will lower property taxes for homeowners and give Issaquah more regional clout, Councilman Hank Thomas said.
"The size of the city is a kind of metric," he said. "It will make people say, 'Look, this is a place that you need to pay attention to.' "
The city is still trying to negotiate more money from the county, including reducing a $6.3 million, 20-year loan Issaquah owes King County for funding the Sammamish Plateau Access Road, an arterial that runs through the Issaquah Highlands and connects to the Sunset Interchange at Interstate 90, Councilman Fred Butler said. Once the city acts, Klahanie residents must either hold an annexation election or submit a petition requesting annexation.
The City Council could also decide to sidestep these methods and pass a resolution on its own. Annexation must be carried out by June 1, 2006, if the city wants the incentive money.
Butler said he welcomes the annexation.
"They are our neighbors," Butler said. "Many of them already consider themselves part of Issaquah."
Reaction is mixed in Klahanie, said Rich Faires, executive director of the Klahanie Homeowner's Association. Some residents would rather see themselves belonging to neighboring Sammamish.
"It's really divided," he said. "That's the really frustrating thing." But he says his organization's main concern is city services and "who takes care of our roads better."
Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger added that annexation always stirs up different views.
"There are people who think it's a great idea and people who don't," Frisinger said. "I have yet to see 100 percent approval of any annexation."
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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