City backs off on annexations

"Depending on how you look at it, hundreds of county residents living on the outskirts of Oak Harbor either escaped from - or missed out on - a chance to become city residents recently.City Planner Tom Burdett held a city workshop Sept. 19 on the so-called islands and properties surrounded by 80 percent of city land. City Councilman John LaFond asked the city staff to explore the issue after the state Legislature passed a bill regarding annexation of such properties.In the end, however, council members decided not to pursue the annexations, at least not any time soon, after realizing that the property owners could easily de-annex themselves from the city with a simple petition and vote.Under state law, a municipality may annex islands of property into the city without approval by the land owners if the areas are surrounded by land already in the city - or if not completely surrounded, at least 80 percent surrounded.LaFond said he is interested in annexation mainly because it's a way to bring more revenue into the city through more property taxes. It's also a question of fairness, he added, pointing out that those residents on the edge invariably use many city services, from roads to parks, but don't pay city taxes.In addition, LaFond said the annexation would help square off city boundaries and relieve confusion over jurisdictions.To avoid urban sprawl, the city's Comprehensive Plan discourages the creation of islands or unincorporated enclaves, which are defined as an area completely surrounded by incorporated parts of the city. Burdett mapped out over 250 acres in five areas that fit into the category: Area 1 is made up of Crosswoods, Crosswoods West, Indian Ridge and Fireside neighborhoods, totalling about 64 acres; Area 2 is Fairway Estates with 18 acres; Area 3 is Downcrest and Westridge, which is about 53.8 acres; Area 4 is made up of Highland Trace, Poppy's Place and Kiwi Lane, which is 21 acres; and Area 5 is along Goldie Road and Seventh Avenue NE, which totals 99.5 acres.The five areas have a combined total of $44 million of assessed valuation. Interim City Supervisor Doug Merriman pointed out that the annexation would bring in only about $132,000 a year in property taxes. Burdett said the staff hasn't even begun to look at how expensive it would be for the residents or the city to extend city services to those areas.LaFond said he's realizes many of the residents would be against being annexed into the city because of the added expenses from city taxes and eventually being hooked up to city utilities.Within 45 days of being annexed, those against the annexation would need to get only 10 percent of the property owners to sign a petition in order to have a vote of all the property owners in the annexation area. A simple majority would de-annex the area.So for now, LaFond said the council will probably just hold off on the issue until the planning department staff has time to investigate further and see if any of the neighborhoods would be interested in voluntarily coming into the city. "

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