Olympia City Council targets more 'islands' for annexation

Olympia City Council expected to consider another ‘island’ – 20 acres off Cooper Point Road

Staff writerAugust 23, 2013 

Fresh from giving preliminary approval to annex 8.5-acre Westchester development off Division Street on Tuesday, the Olympia City Council has its eyes on adding 20 acres off Cooper Point Road. The matter could come to the council as early as next week.

If the city approves the annexation, which must first pass the Thurston County Boundary Review Board along with the Division Street annexation, the city will have annexed two of three “islands,” portions of unincorporated land that is surrounded by the city limits.

It represents a change in city policy from the past practice of waiting for residents to ask to be annexed. Now the city is taking the initiative.

The impetus is a 2009 state law that allows cities to initiate annexations in “islands” without popular support. The rationale is that it’s inefficient for a county to provide service in areas not contiguous to its boundaries.

Last year, the council’s land-use committee asked staff to pursue annexing the smaller parcels – the Division Street and Cooper Point islands, said Keith Stahley, the city’s planning director.

The largest remaining island by far is 205-acre piece in the Boulevard Road area, south of Pacific Avenue and north of 15th Avenue, including both sides of Boulevard and parts of Interstate 5 and the Woodland Trail.

“At this point the city doesn’t have any specific timeline for moving forward with the Boulevard Road annexation other than we have an intention to eliminate the islands that exist within the community,” he said.

The last time the Boulevard matter came before the full City Council, in 2010, four property owners voiced objection to it. Among them were some members of the Burgman family, owners of the Forest Funeral Home & Cemetery, which lies in the proposed Boulevard Road annexation area.

“We are opposed to the annexation,” Tim Burgman told the council. “One reason that was already stated: We do not have a vote on it.”

A lack of public support for annexation allowed the three islands to remain out of the city, according to a 2010 staff report. So the city grew up around them.

Prior to the 2009 state annexation law, there were two basic methods of annexation: by special election or by petition of property owners of at least 60 percent of the assessed value of the area to be annexed. The city only initiated annexations under special circumstances.

The 2009 state law provided an opportunity for cities to absorb islands without popular consent in certain circumstances.

Stahley said the city now has two choices in acquiring islands: it can initiate the process, or property owners can petition. Sometimes that petition can be satisfied by an agreement with a developer before residents of a subdivision moves into their homes.

In the case of the Westchester annexation, the original developer of the area agreed to eventual annexation in return for residents not having to pay a surcharge for Olympia utilities, which is charged to noncity residents, Stahley said. Individual homeowners agreed to the annexation when they acquired the title to their properties, he said.

In the case of the Cooper Point parcel, which sits south of 14th Avenue, the city is going forward without popular support. That said, it has not experienced an outpouring of opposition, Stahley said.

Bob Jones, who lives in the nearby Goldcrest neighborhood in the city of Olympia, said an annexation would be positive, noting a lack of sidewalks south of 14th Avenue. “It’s kind of a death trap to run out there,” he said.

If the annexations go through, people’s taxes will actually go down, according to the city. For example, a house valued at $188,000 in the Cooper Point island would pay $2,715.02 per year after annexation, compared with $2,798.67 before annexation.

That’s due to the Thurston County’s road tax, which applies to residents in the unincorporated county.

Once annexed, residents would get city services such as police, street paving, street lights, a sidewalk program and the right to vote in city elections. Waste-pickup service, provided by LeMay Inc. could continue for seven years after annexation if LeMay were to elect to continue the service. Then the city would take over the service.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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