Politics: Esperance Annexation
This page will be kept around for historical odds and ends we aren't moving to the new page, but nothing new.
Esperance is an unincorporated region of Snohomish County which has been gradually annexed by Edmonds until only 5 precincts remain, completely surrounded by Edmonds.
Edmonds Timeline :
See: Edmonds Maps ("http://www.edmondswa.gov/component/content/?id=1266&Itemid=2605")
Rumors of a secret annexation effort by Mayor Dave Earling and developer-friendly members of the Edmonds City Council led us to:
In respose we will meet to level-set on facts and options.
BTW, apparently it is easy to be annexed but realistically impossible to be de-annexed: http://mrsc.org/Home/Stay-Informed/MRSC-Insight/September-2014/De-Annexation-of-Property-from-a-City-%E2%80%93-How-Does-T.aspx
Follow the Money.
While annexation gets us aroused, the real problem seems to be steady erosion of the Esperance green-belt ambiance. By now the Esperance frog is well on its way to boiling.
City and County seem to have conspired with developers over several years to degrade zoning, wink at illegal development, eliminate green areas, introduce high-density to single-family neighbors, etc. We are still researching this.
You may recall that G Haakensen was Edmonds Mayor in the last attempt. When it failed Haakensen went to work on the County Planning Commission. At one time I explicitly asked if the Commission favored Esperance Annexation and they said no. But they did approve commercial development right up to the edges of Esperance. So we're not sure where the County stands, but at least they can answer questions.
We need to get serious about what is contemplated -- long before the Notices show up.
[I see Council Pos 3 is missing a representative on the County Planning Commission -- maybe we can help out.]
A few background papers:
In handing out notices, I heard a bit about neighbor-to-neighbor feuds. See lawn_wars.pdf.
In the spirit of talking to one another, anyone want to share hobbies and activities? See Esperance_activities.pdf
Esperance is an unincorporated area in south Snohomish County. Annexation-by-annexation, Edmonds swallowed pieces until it now surrounds the remaining 5 precincts: Ann, Chapel, Holly, Rob, Summit.
In the early 1960s a few residents of Esperance (including my family) pushed for annexation in order to gain access to a sewer system. That failed repeatedly. But once sewage was solved without annexation, “No Annexation” became the common response.
Later Edmonds decided it wanted chunks of Esperance for industrial development, so carved off piece after piece, turning residential areas into industrial and high-rise taxing sources. Edmonds also has noted repeatedly in its financial planning documents that annexation would be a revenue source, using Esperance tax dollars to fund downtown and "the bowl" projects.
The remaining 5 precincts (Ann, Chapel, Holly, Rob, Summit) have held firm for decade after decade.
The annexations are 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).
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
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]
In 2003 state annexation law was changed to simplify annexation of areas fully surrounded by cities. Edmonds now has two legal approaches available:
Clearly we need community meetings to learn:
Edmonds paid c $5000 for a special election added to the Nov 2008 Gneeral election. Annexation was soundly rejected.
It appears the financial drivers (developers want Esperamce land, Edmonds wants Esperance tax dollars) , the issues, and many of the players are the same from 2008 and even 2005.
[Originally written in 2005, but still relevant]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Numbered quotes of the form xx.xx.xxx are from the City of Edmonds regulations. The sources are:
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.
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.
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.
17.35.030 Keeping of domesticated animals in residential zones.
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:
17.35.040 Keeping of poultry and covered animals in residential zones.
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?
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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