Meeting on Olympia's plan to annex Boulevard Road area set for Wednesday

Staff writerDecember 13, 2013 

Surrounded by Olympia, some residents of an unincorporated “island” oppose the city’s latest attempt at annexation without a public vote.

The 205-acre Boulevard Road area borders Interstate 5 and extends north to Pacific Avenue and south to 15th Avenue SE. With a population of 327, the area covers both sides of Boulevard Road and includes parts of the Woodland Trail.

A public information meeting will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Olympia City Hall. The city’s goal is to finalize annexation in the spring or early summer.

If annexed, homeowners should expect to pay less property tax — about $85 less per year for a home that’s valued at $200,000, said Gary Cooper, associate planner for Olympia. That’s because residents would no longer pay a county road tax.

However, residents in the area will pay more for utilities. Cooper estimated that annexation will cost affected homeowners about $250 more total per year, depending on utility consumption and services such as cable. Businesses in the area will be required to pay a business and occupation tax.

A mutual aid agreement already allows Olympia police and fire departments to serve unincorporated residents. Annexation is not expected to strain these services, Cooper said.

“It’s whoever gets there first,” said Cooper, noting the agreement with the county sheriff and fire district. “Practically speaking, we already serve those areas.”

Mike Carney, who has lived on 15th Avenue since 1997, said the public should be allowed to vote for annexation. He disagrees with the city’s approach, and said annexation opens the door to micromanagement of municipal services. For starters, he dislikes the prospect of higher living costs along with paying for garbage service when he already hauls his own trash.

If a majority of residents voted to annex, he would be satisfied that the people decided, not the city.

“I’m not really enthused with the sort of sanctimonious way it’s being handled,” Carney said. “It’s like they took a rather innocuous law and extrapolated it to conquer territory against the will of the people.”

The city is pursuing annexation through an Interlocal Agreement process with Thurston County and Fire District 3. The Interlocal Agreement is one of 10 annexation methods. In 2009, the state allowed cities to initiate annexations of unincorporated islands without a public vote. The method is “the most efficient and least costly to our taxpayers,” according to the city’s website.

In 2010, the annexation ball began rolling as Olympia targeted three unincorporated islands, including the Boulevard Road area. Foster Funeral Home owner Tim Burgman opposed annexation when it went before the Olympia City Council three years ago due to lack of a public vote. The funeral home is located on Pacific Avenue along the area’s northern boundary.

Burgman’s daughter, Teresa Goen-Burgman, has stayed on top of the issue and plans to attend next week’s public meeting. She is concerned about the potential costs for road and code upgrades. She also criticized Olympia for waiting until this month to notify residents about the annexation and public meeting.

“A lot more discussion has to happen,” she said. “I oppose it until we get some answers.”

In August, Olympia annexed 20 acres off Cooper Point Road south of 14th Avenue, along with 8.5 acres near Division Street in an area known as Westchester.

If the recent annexation proposal goes through, residents in the Boulevard Road area will also be able to vote in Olympia city elections.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 @andyhobbs

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