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Politics: Esperance Annexation

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1. Hot Topics

  • 2005-08-05 : Edmonds has filed. Time to COMMENT.

    Edmonds has filed with the Boundary Review Board (BRB) to put the annexation on the ballot:

      DATE:       July 29, 2005
      FILE NO:    22-2005
      SUBJECT:    City of Edmonds Proposed
                  Holly/Summit Annexation
    

    (Don't let the name confuse you -- this covers the whole Esperance area.)

    What I didn't know until just now is that the Board has a duty to confirm that the request is reasonable. They rely in part on comments collected by the planner:

        Richard Craig, PDS
        3000 Rockefeller M/S #604
        Everett WA, 98201
    
        Email:
        richard.craig@co.snohomish.wa.us
    

    The comment period closes August 12. Please let him know you opinion. Given the deadline, email is best.

  • 2005-05-27: Flyer (2-sided) for distributing door-to-door.

  • Committee Meeting June 14, 2005 6:00PM

    Several separate sessions, in and near Council Chambers

  • Council Meeting June 21, 2005 7:00PM

    Edmonds City Council Chambers council_members

    The meeting was a report to council from planning and finance staff. After discussion, the council voted to ask staff to prepare a resolution to go directly to an election. Public hearings will review that resolution, with specific attention to determining if it is good for current Edmonds citizens.

    These topics came up:

    • R. Marin: Can Edmonds just annex the strip along 99, so we can do our corridor planning? D. Bowman: Probably not. County frowns on "cherry picking".

    • G. Haakensen: Even if the Esperance area as a whole votes down annexation, can individual people get annexed? D. Bowman: Not as individuals, but possibly as neighborhoods if they are at the boundaries.

    • (Council): What are the options? D. Bowman: Annexation by pettition (60% of value); call election and get 50%+1; island annexation and then (after petition) win resulting election with 50%+1.

    • (Council): What is the financial tradeoff? D. Clements: A wash for Edmonds. Probably slightly positive for Esperance tax payers. [New figures tonight made it c. $87/yr positive for annexation for $250K home.]

    • (Council): Can Edmonds promise Esperance it will use the surplus (c. $500K/yr) in Esperance? ((Legal): You can do it, but the next year it can be undone. Nothing to stop other neighborhoods for asking for similar treatment.

    • (Council): What are the expenses?

      (Staff): 9 miles of roads, and 6 miles of it need resurfacing. There are about 130 miles in Edmonds and about 1/3 of that needs resurfacing. Need to put the task in perspective. Thus not clear if any resurfacing would be done in Esperance.

      D. Bowman: Typically annexations tend to be more expensive than anticipated, and storm drainage is a big part of that.

    • J. Wilson: If Esperance is annexed and accepts bonded debt, then the debt load for the rest of Edmonds citizens goes down.

  • Meeting March 3, 2005

    Community open house on March 3 at Esperance Baptist Church, 7812 224th St SW, from 7-9 PM.

    Actually, it morphed into Edmonds explaining that "many people" had asked for annexation, where "many" turned out to be about 20 (only a few of whom were actually in the meeting). Meanwhile well over that number were in the room asking "What will it take to make you go away?"

  • News


2. Overview

Esperance is an unincorporated area in south Snohomish County. Annexation-by-annexation, Edmonds swallowed pieces until it now surrounds the remaining 5 precincts:

  • Ann Contact: Stephanie Harris (c3beta@msn.com)
  • Chapel Contact: Peg Erickson (pegeriksen@yahoo.com)
  • Holly Contact: Donna Salins (donnasalins@comcast.net)
  • Rob Contact: Harry George (hgg9140@seanet.com)
  • Summit Contact: Hope Guerette (hope@guerrette.net)

The annexations were at times "one dollar one vote", under the process:

...ways to annex. ...by petition brought by owners of 60 percent of the assessed property value of the area; a petition brought by owners of 51 percent of the property and 51 percent of the registered voters; and by resolution of the City Council, according to Marsha Carlsen, chief clerk of the Snohomish County Boundary Review Board (BRB).

Bill Sheets "City talking annexation of Esperance area" Edmonds Enterprise, Friday April 02, 2004.

Having made Esperance an island via such maneuvers, Edmonds now wants to annex the remaining precincts. For Edmonds's side of the story, see: http://www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/annexation_home.stm

City of Edmonds intent on Esperance annexation Officials to try new approach in January

...In early 2005, residents again will have to vote against annexation to keep it from happening. Edmonds plans to act under a new state law that allows cities to annex unincorporated "islands" without requiring approval from the people who live in the area.

City officials will begin proceedings in January, and the unincorporated area could join Edmonds as soon as April.

Bill Sheets. Everett Herald, Nov 21, 2004 (http://www.heraldnet.com/stories/04/11/21/loc_annex001.cfm

The word is that residents still don't want it to happen. The purpose of this essay is to understand the issues. I'll do what I can to get the ball rolling, but expect to learn more from others as we meet and discuss throughout the Esperance area.

Clearly we need community meetings to learn:

  1. What Edmonds has in mind
  2. Whether or not it is a good idea for the people of Esperance
  3. If it is not a good idea, how do we fight it?
  4. If it is a good idea, how do we assure adequate representation in Edmonds governance?

3. Why Does Edmonds Persist?

3.1. Hypothesis: Edmonds wants undeveloped land to grow more tax base

Under this hypothesis, the residents of Esperance are mere electoral inconveniences. As the saying goes: Follow the Money.

The area on the west side of Highway 99 between 228th and 234th streets is part of Esperance, and much of it is undeveloped. The city is currently studying ways to boost business along the highway.

Bill Sheets. "City talking annexation of Esperance area". Edmonds Enterprise. Friday, April 02, 2004

At http://www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/codes.stm, you find the concept_map, which already has chunks of Esperance sliced off for business development.

2005-05-27: Edmonds planners have told us the map is out of date. It was on the website when we went to the initial meetings this time around. An Edmonds businees has recently tried to get a chunk of that residential area rezoned business. It would be fair to say the map represents a likely future if Esperance folks were not pushing back.

2005-06-21: R. Marin's questions about annexing just the Highway 99 strip indicate the concept map isn't entirely dead.

3.2. Hypothesis: Edmonds wants to rezone single family homes into commercial property.

As I understand it, Edmonds assures us they will zone as the County zones.

2005-05-25: The hot rezoning issue right now is the County plan, which marks a residential area in Chapel as business. There is a petition in process to get this error fixed.

3.3. Hypothesis: Esperance can't get services (and doesn't pay for the ones it gets)

Under this hypothesis, Esperance either is missing vital services, or is failing to pay its own way.

What would a normal tax rate be?

The average 2002 tax rate in Snohomish County is about $13.46 per $1000 of assessed valuation. Rates vary from area to area and from year to year, but multiplying the number of thousands of dollars of price or cost by 13.46 will provide a rough estimate of taxes. Tax rates ranged from a low of $9.27 to a high of $15.70 depending on where you live in the county.

http://www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/Departments/Assessor/Services/FAQ/Taxes.htm

A typical Esperance home is paying $12.60 per $1000 in taxes. Apparently we are not freeloaders. And of course we pay direct utility bills as well. The services include:

Service Provider Esperance pays
Water/sewer Olympic View Water District direct bill
Power (elec)SnoCo PUD direct bill
Garbage Rabanco direct bill
Fire Fire District No 01 tax
Police SnoCo Sheriff tax
Medical STEVENS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL tax
Schools EDMONDS SCHOOL DISTRICT NO 15 tax
Library SNOISLE REGIONAL LIBRARY tax
Arts S SNO CO ARTS STAD CENTER tax
Roads SNOHOMISH COUNTY - ROAD tax
County SNOHOMISH COUNTY - CNT tax

Many of us also support small businesses, and have shopped in downtown Edmonds for decades. We pay to use Francis Anderson Center facilities. We attend school events (and pay same as everyone else).

What exactly would Edmonds provide beyond these services? The press releases mention enhanced parks. Where was that to occur? There is one existing park: Chase Lake. There is a candidate park (Esperance Elementary).

What is Edmonds's record on that? Esperance citizens who protected Chase Lake are not convinced Edmonds was on the side of the environment. Further, this is the same city council that accepted clearcutting of the slope above Marina Park. Sure, there were penalties and some replanting. But the project wasn't stopped in its tracks until the trees regrew. The hillside is still ugly and bare.

2005-06-14: I've just heard that council members consider the enforcement vigorous and appropriate, and that in the final settlement there was no limit on tree height. I'll try to follow up, but that doesn't change the tenor of the meeting last year. I'd prefer a council which looked the developer square in the eye and said, "You broke the rules; you lose the permit. When the trees have regrown we'll talk again."

This track record raises concern that any new parks would be a token bribe so we would let most of the undeveloped land be turned into another business park.

3.4. Hypothesis: Edmonds wants a net increase in revenues

Under this hypothesis, the added taxes from Esperance would outweigh the added costs of supporting Esperance. This can only happen if there is a net flow of funds from Esperance to Edmonds.

Here was the Edmonds City Council's view of the situation in 2003 (when they were facing a budget shortfall for 2004). Administrative Services Director Dan Clements explained the 2004 budget...

Mr. Clements displayed a schedule that illustrated Public Safety items included in the budget, items proposed to be funded via the levy lid lift and items not funded in the budget. He displayed and reviewed a list of potential new revenue sources including efficiencies, property tax levy recapture, additional utility taxes, wireless franchise, rolling stock fund, and Esperance annexation and the amounts generated by each.

(emphasis added) http://www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/CityCouncil/CouncilArchives/2003/11/cm031108.htm

4. What's good for the goose...

By odd coincidence, Lynnwood is eyeing Edmonds at the same time Edmonds is eyeing Esperance. The official and unofficial backlash from Edmonds has been enlightening for Esperance residents.

"Merge with Lynnwood? Altogether now: Yuck!" [full opinion piece was in that vein]

Michael Plunkett, President Edmonds City Council. Edmonds Beacon, pg 4. December 9, 2004.

5. What happens next?

In 2003 state annexation law was changed to simplify annexation of areas fully surrounded by cities. Edmonds now has two legal approaches available:

  1. The old annexation-by-petition
  2. The new island-annexation. Annexation is a sure thing unless citizens collect petition signatures from 15 percent of the recent turnout:

    ANN     reg=421 turnout=388 (92%) 15%_of_turnout=58
    CHAPEL  reg=425 turnout=382 (89%) 15%_of_turnout=57
    HOLLY   reg=556 turnout=518 (93%) 15%_of_turnout=78
    ROB     reg=381 turnout=333 (87%) 15%_of_turnout=50
    SUMMIT  reg=494 turnout=416 (84%) 15%_of_turnout=62
    

    Since the petition is for the whole area (not precinct by precinct), it appears we need a total of 305 signatures. To be safe, increase that to 350.

    (NOTE: By waiting over a year to leverage the 2004 presidential race, Edmonds enhanced the difficulty of the 15% requirement.)

    2005-01-06: I've just heard that we may need to be present at the meeting in which the annexation resolution is passed, in order to contest it and start the 45 day clock.

6. Issues

It is impossible to know a priori what the issues are, much less the tradeoffs and final tallies. The best I can currently do is identify a few topics and their tradeoffs. I look forward to hearing from Edmonds planners on why annexation is a good idea, and from Esperance residents on why it is a bad idea.

Numbered quotes of the form xx.xx.xxx are from the City of Edmonds regulations. The sources are:

6.1. I thought it was already a "done deal".

Absolutely not. The United States was founded on "no taxation without representation". That means we get to vote on whether or not Edmonds gets to start taxing us.

It is true that Edmonds was acting early this year as if island annexation was the final trump card. That was before the residents of Esperance awoke.

6.2. I didn't vote in the 2004 General, can I vote for/against annexation?

Yes you can vote. The 2004 general election turnout will just set the number of signatures needed to validate a petition. If you are a registered voter in the Esperance area, you can sign petitions and vote in elections.

6.3. I've heard Snohomish County doesn't want Esperance.

We've heard this from several people, apparently traced back to Edmonds officials (e.g., a friend of a friend who is in the Edmonds Police). We've checked with Snohomish planning staff and find no evidence of such a position. If someone knows otherwise, please provide specifics.

2005-06-11: Gary Nelson (3rd District County Council rep) confirmed to M. Luke that the COunty would not initiate annexation and was not encouraging the City to make that move. He did say they'd probably endorse it if it came up.

Remember, SnoCo employees, including planning staff and law enforcement, are *our* employees. It is up to registered voters to decide the future direction.

6.4. Pets

17.35.030 Keeping of domesticated animals in residential zones.

For each residential dwelling unit, regardless of the number of occupants residing within such dwelling unit, the following maximum number of domestic animals may be kept or owned within the dwelling unit and upon the lot or premises associated with such dwelling unit:

A. Household pets in numbers normally and commonly associated with the primary residential use of the dwelling unit. "Household pets" are animals commonly or normally kept or owned in association with a residential dwelling unit and which are generally kept or housed within the interior of the dwelling unit, including such animals as hamsters, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, nonvenomous snakes, parakeets, canaries, finches, other songbirds, small nonvenomous reptiles and amphibians, and fish;

B. Five or fewer domestic animals;

C. One unweaned litter produced by any domestic animal permitted to be kept by this chapter; provided, that the total number of domestic animals kept shall not exceed that number provided in subsection B of this section more than 180 days following the birth of the litter. [Ord. 3343, 2001].

6.5. Livestock

When I moved to my current home, there were horses at one end of the street, a mink farm at the other, cows and chickens across the road, and forest out back. This was all stripped bare by developers, leaving enormous erosion problems. Over decades we and our neighbors have stabilized the embankments, rebuilt the soil, and sheltered wildlife. Some of us have also raised chickens, rabbits, and other small-scale livestock, and intend to do so again as food prices react to Peak Oil.

Here is the Edmonds point of view:

17.35.010 Purpose.

The city council finds and declares that the city of Edmonds is a developed urban community of primarily residential character. The purpose of this chapter is to reasonably regulate the owning and keeping of animals in a manner to promote and protect the urban residential character of the city. [Ord. 3343 1, 2001].

More specifically:

17.35.040 Keeping of poultry and covered animals in residential zones.

The keeping of poultry or covered animals within a residential dwelling unit, or upon the premises connected therewith, shall be prohibited except as provided herein.

6.6. It's just silly to have an island

Ah yes, those pesky islands of people-who-don't-believe-as-we-do. A really nasty side-effect of democracy.

So what can be done?

  1. Do nothing. Esperance folks are paying for their services and don't mind not being officially in Edmonds. Why do anything at all?

  2. Annex all of Edmonds, and Esperance, into Lynnwood. Not that I'm fond of Lynnwood either, but the howls of outrage from Edmonds council members would be instructive.

  3. De-incorporate Edmonds, or at least the "surrounding" chunks. Why precisely does Edmonds need to exist? Why does it need boundaries out to Highway 99? The services are the same with or without Edmonds.

6.7. Amateur Radio Antennas

Simply put, Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) is the only mechanism which supports long distance communication without interpolation by corporate-owned media. That is why I took the time to learn the material, pass the tests, and become a licensee (KD7VEY). I then put up a modest antenna (a G5RV), largely hidden from view by trees. As time and budget permit, I intend to put up a larger HF antenna and a few VHF antennas. This is a normal progression in Amateur Radio.

Licensees recognize that the antennas can be view-blockers for neighbors, so they often move to unincorporated areas as a good-faith effort. But when city folk then move into those areas and complain about the antennas, friction arises. FCC regulations protect the licensee's right to set up an antenna. Cities often try to restrict the antennas.

What is Edmonds' point of view? First, of course we have to recognize Edmonds is largely in a radio hole -- even car radios have trouble as you descend into town. It is up on the ridge (where Esperance is found) that Ham antennas are viable, and thus an issue. As a result, we have Edmonds annexing prime antenna territory and then trying to curtail effective antennas.

See City Council, February 17, 2004 minutes

6.8. Cell Towers

For the same reason radio antennas are an issue up on the Esperance ridgeline, cell phone companies want to place towers in the area. And, because each company wants its own tower, we could potentially get an overlapping forest of towers. For example, a 150 foot cell tower is proposed for the Shurgard storage facility on Highway 99, overshadowing Esperance. THere is a hearing at Edmonds City Council meeting room, Wed Feb 2, 7:00PM.

An effort has begun to push back. Residents from Chapel have found these releavant sites:

6.9. Taxes

If the area is annexed, property owners would no longer pay a county road tax or a tax to Fire District 1 to cover its contract with Edmonds for fire service to the area, Edmonds finance director Dan Clements said. That would reduce taxes by $512 a year for the owner of a $350,000 home, he said.

Utility users in Edmonds pay a 5.75 percent tax on their water, sewer, cable, electrical and phone bills, which averages out to about $150 a year, Clements said, so property owners should still come out ahead.

Bill Sheets. Everett Herald, Nov 21, 2004 (http://www.heraldnet.com/stories/04/11/21/loc_annex001.cfm

In other words, this is a tax shift from wealthy homeowners to anyone using basic necessities like water/sewer/electricity.

The problem is, there aren't many $350,000-and-up homes in Esperance. Let's see the same analysis for a $200,000 home, and for a condo or apartment.

Even if the typical Esperance resident got a lower tax-plus-utilities bill after annexation, there might not be a net improvement. The lost county taxes would likely be replenished elsewhere. Whatever fees, taxes, surcharges, etc. were used, the net result would be that Esperance residents would still be paying for the county and would now be paying for Edmonds as well.

Since this line of reasoning is about anticipated changes in county policy, it is impossible to nail down specifics. But it is reasonable to assume that the net tax benefits of annexation will not be quite a rosy as currently being touted.

6.10. Edmonds Governance

Suppose we get annexed. Is the City of Edmonds required by law to pay any attention at all to Esperance's needs and priorities? Apparently not. Do we get our own city council member, who can speak for our interests? Apparently not. We'd be in the same hopper with everyone else in Edmonds, including entrenched interests who don't quite see things the Esperance way.

So we'd better hit the ground running, with support for helpful council members, candidates of our own where that is needed, memberships on key committees, reading legal notices in local papers, and vigilant attendance at every committee session or hearing open to the public. And we'd have to organize for more than just an annexation petition drive.

Visit http://www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/city_council.stm Click on each council member and try to determine if you have anything in common. I would expect a community as artistically, historically, and environmentally aware as Edmonds to have kindred spirits who understand the importance of Esperance's esprit d'corps.

Also scan the "quick links" in the title bar for committees and activites which strike your interests..

 
Creator: Harry George
Updated/Created: 2005-08-05