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Developers have convincing to do for Oak Harbor annexation
An effort to annex 10 acres of undeveloped forest into Oak Harbor may result in a handful of county residents going along for the ride, whether they want to or not.
The six children of the late George Marin are moving forward with plans for the annexation, and eventual development, of a wooded parcel along Swantown Road across from the Whidbey Golf and Country Club. Because the move would inadvertently seal off 32 homes in Fairway Estates, creating an island of county residents within city limits, the Oak Harbor City Council is requiring that the Marins persuade those residents to be annexed as well.
However, state rules require that only some of the homeowners agree. Those who don’t, no matter what their reasons, could still end up becoming city residents. While Marin family members have not yet begun to petition homeowners, that fact alone could make it a hard sell.
“I think that’s stupid,” said Kelly Bryant, a Fairway Estates resident. “I think everyone needs to agree because it affects everyone.”
Byrant is a mother of four whose Navy husband is on deployment. She said she doesn’t have anything against someone wanting to become part of the city, but is worried about the financial strain such a move would place on her family. When they bought their home several years ago, a Realtor told them it would cost up to $10,000 to hook up to the city’s sewer system.
If her home was annexed, and the city required the new residents to subscribe to city services, she said she would be hard pressed to come up with that kind of cash, especially in this economy.
“That was three years ago,” she said. “The cost now, who knows what it would be. But it would come out of our pocket.”
Concern about the cost of city services seems to be a common thread among residents. Mike Teel said he hasn’t made up his mind yet, but the effect on his pocket book will be a huge factor in his decision. The Marin family will have to show him how such a move would make sense, he said.
Richard Marin, an Edmonds resident and spokesman for the family, said that is exactly what he plans to do. While annexing Fairway Estates is something the city is requiring and was not part of the family’s original plan, Marin said he does believe it would be a benefit over the long term.
The largest perk would be the added protection of the city’s fire and police departments. But connecting to the city’s sewer would be good thing too because it would eliminate the hassle and expense of maintaining a septic system, which all Fairway Estates homes have. And if it was done collectively, and not piecemeal, the cost of installation would be manageable, Marin said.
“Then it makes good sense,” he said.
Marin is in the process of gathering information from the city about just what annexation will mean to homeowners and hopes to mail each resident a packet before he begins knocking on doors sometime in the next few weeks. Given the opportunity to really weigh the pros and cons, Marin said he hopes people will see annexation as a good thing.
According to state law, for the Marin family to succeed they will need to have the support of 60 percent of the total assessed value of both areas. That includes their undeveloped 10-acre lot and those in Fairview Estates. While the exact number could fluctuate based on individual property values, Marin estimates he will need the endorsement of about 18 residents.
But no matter what the outcome of the petition, the City Council is in no way required to approve the annexation of either area, according to Oak Harbor Planning Department Director Steve Powers. It could still chose to reject the application even if the Marins are successful, he said.
“It doesn’t automatically guarantee they will approve the petition,” he said.
Powers also addressed some of the concerns regarding city utilities. The only city service that residents would immediately begin to pay for is storm water. Hooking into water is not required, and garbage pick up would likely not be required for about 10 years.
As for sewer, he said the existing septic systems in use would be allowed until they break down and Island County health officials refuse to certify them. Once that occurs, residents would then be required to connect to the city’s sewer lines.
For some residents, that alone may be enough to doom the pending petition. Roger and Sally Christensen have a septic system that was put in many years ago, and while it is working fine now, it won’t last forever. Hooking into the city’s system would cost a “great deal” of money, they said.
“We’re on borrowed time,” Sally Christensen said. “Off the top of my head, I would say, ‘No.’”