City ponders incorporating last three pre-annexation areas – again

Three areas within the City of Auburn's potential annexation area (PAA) remain for it to incorporate — the first two are on the King County side, the third is in Pierce County.

While Auburn completely surrounds the first two PAAs, the Klump/Thomas PAA, southeast of the old Thomas School flanking 85th Avenue Southeast on the east and west sides, it wraps municipal arms around only 85 percent of the third, the Stuck-Totem PAA, visibly plentiful in livestock as one tools along A Street Southeast or 29th Street Southeast.

Despite the persistent shadow of the thumping "get lost" verdict residents of all three areas rendered on annexation in February 2008 — only 21 votes "for" registered in all three the areas combined — City officials this week began looking once more at incorporating them.

Much this time around rides, said Councilman John Holman, upon how the City promotes annexation, for example, whether resident's taxes would go up, down, or stay the same, what the City says about water and sewer rates, what it says about police response time, even whether people in Stuck-Totem with critters could keep them.

"The more public outreach we do, the smoother this whole thing goes," Holman told members of the Planning and Community Development Committee on Monday. "Most people have a fear that, by going with the City, their taxes will go up. In reality, their taxes will remain the same, or they may go down a little bit in all three of these cases."

State law offers several ways for a city like Auburn to annex property.

First is the election method, which the City employed in 2008 when it annexed Lea and West hills.

Second is the petition method, an action initiated by property owners living within the PAA.

Finally, there is the "island-annexation" method, which comes into play when the area in question is completely surrounded, or at least 80 percent surrounded by an already-incorporated city.

The first action under the island-annexation method would be for the City Council to pass a resolution, that is, a notice of intent to annex, to send along to the King County or Pierce County boundary review boards. As long as another city or district does not invoke jurisdiction within 45 days, the boundary review boards would make their decisions, and provided the say "yes," Auburn would then move on with an ordinance approving the annexation. After that follows another 45-day period, during which residents within the PAA get to decide whether or not to put the issue to a referendum and a vote. If nothing of the kind happens, the annexation would then become official.

Committee Chair Nancy Backus said she would prefer to avoid the expense of an actual election, but City Attorney Dan Heid cautioned that the City won't have much of a choice.

As for water costs, residents in the Totem-Stuck PAA probably would not see much of a change because they are on Bonney Lake Water and would stay on it, said Senior Planner Elizabeth Chamberlain. The Klump/Thomas PAAS uses Auburn water.

As for septic systems, homeowners with the Totem/Stuck area are on their own septic systems.

"They would fear that we would be using this to force them onto City water and sewer and no, we would not," Holman said. "If their water were to fall below state standards, or if their sewer system were to fail, King County Health would force them to change water or sewer, not the City of Auburn. We could be their savior in this particular case and save them a lot of money. I think it's all in how we talk to our potential annexees, that this is a good thing. Especially for some of these that have commercial designations, this could potentially improve the value of their land."

Stuck-Totem, which abuts A Street Southeast, is zoned heavy commercial and the balance of it is high-density residential. This area varies from manufactured home parks to multi-family residences to the northeast before becoming single-family neighborhoods.

“Using the resolution method is fairly clean, and if we do a good outreach program, we may not even go to elections,” Holman said. “They have to solicit 10 percent of the last state election within that area. If we use the boundary review board to good effect, we may not (have to hold elections). If we do a good publicity campaign that shows it is to their benefit to come into the city of Auburn, we could also clear up some of the ambiguities we have about police response right now. This is the sort of handholding we need to do in our public outreach. I think this thing will sail through.”

"I think that if we even hope to have a positive response to this, that it has significant outreach. John, I am not as optimistic as you are ... without significant outreach," Backus said.

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