With map: Annexation hearing to air pros, cons

The annexation would cover 871 acres of homes and rural areas south of Walla Walla’s city limits.

 Table Rock neighborhood and the proposed expansion area to the right are shown.

Table Rock neighborhood and the proposed expansion area to the right are shown. Photo by Jeff Horner.

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Courtesy of city of Walla Walla

This map shows the area of a planned annexation south of Walla Walla into the city.

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Graphic by Alfred Diaz

WALLA WALLA — In the six weeks since City Council voted to move ahead with a plan to annex 871 acres on the south side, opposing residents have registered dozens of complaints with the city ranging from environmental concerns to loss of personal property rights to just plain not wanting be in the city.

This week, residents of two of the three largest housing developments say they will speak in favor of annexation at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. It will start at 7 p.m. in the Walla Walla High School Commons to accommodate the crowd.

“From a financial standpoint, I can tell you it’s a no-brainer,” said Table Rock Homeowners Association Treasurer Brad Rice, explaining the annexation would save residents several hundred dollars annually.

Last Tuesday, the association, which represents the largest housing development in the area, voted unanimously to support annexation, Rice said.

Over at Triple Creek, the second-largest development, homeowner association vice president Steve Milistefr said members won’t be voting whether to support annexation. But he also said he expects little opposition.

“The people that I have talked to about it and the people I see walking on the streets to the mail boxes are for it,” Milistefr said.

OPPOSITION

So far the opponents of annexation have greatly outnumbered the supporters, at least when it comes to registering their complaints.

At a city-sponsored open house on annexation last month where hundreds of county residents took part, about 55 written comments were filed in opposition and about 10 in favor. Comments submitted by opponents included environmental concerns, loss of property rights, lack of notice, higher costs of living and, most of all, people who just don’t want to become city residents.

“I live in the country. We have three acres and I purchased the land to farm ...,” Rachel Day wrote in her comment to the city. “... Don’t annex us. Please. We don’t want to be in the city.”

In another comment, Jean Aycock wrote, “I lived on the same place on South Third for 61 years and I have no wish to become part of the city.”

The proposed annexation roughly covers an area between Reser and Langdon roads and between Kendall Road and Third Avenue. Within it are the Table Rock and Triple Creek subdivisions and Costello addition. Table Rock is the largest of the three, with approximately 87 homes. Together, all three developments total about 160 homes. The remaining area is comprised mostly of larger farms, micro-farms and dozens of rural homes serviced by wells and septic systems.

PROPERTY AND UTILITY TAXES

For all residents living within the area, annexation would result in a drop of property taxes of 62 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, according to city officials. That means the owner of a $250,000 home, for example, would see a savings of $155 per year.

But those savings wouldn’t cover the additional utility taxes and franchise fees imposed on natural gas, electricity, telephone (not including internet phone) and cable service. City officials estimate those four services would cost homeowners and additional $213 a year.

Despite a net additional cost of roughly $75 if they are annexed, Table Rock and Triple Creek residents are expected to support annexation because of what they will save in sewer and water, Rice and Milistefr said. Both added they also would expect annual homeowner dues to drop $40 to $60 because the city would take over paying for street light bills and street maintenance.

SEWER AND WATER

The biggest savings would be for homeowners who are currently hooked up to city sewer and water lines. Residents of the three subdivisions currently pay one-and-a-half times the rate paid by people living within city limits. If the City Council approves annexation, those homeowners would see a one-third drop in water and sewer rates, a savings of roughly $534 per year, according to city officials.

On the flip side, residents with septic systems could see a yearly increase of $422 due to a penalty the city can levy for failure to connect to its the public sewer. The monthly $35.20 failure-to-connect penalty would apply to homeowners with a septic system whose property is located within 300 feet of a city sewer line.

Annexation opponents also question whether they can operate agribusiness on their property and keep horses and other large animals. City officials responded that those residents will be allowed to grandfather in the ownership of animals currently not allowed within city limits, but those rights would end once the property was sold.

CITY COSTS AND REVENUES

As for why the city is considering annexation, city officials estimate annexation will net the city $212,000 in general funds in 2014, with an additional $30,000 added the following four years as Fire District 4 ramps down its tax allotment and city’s is ramped up. But those funds won’t all be profit for the city.

If the city annexes the area, it will then have to pay for a number of services. Some of those services, like law enforcement, are currently paid for by the county. Others, like street maintenance and leaf pickup, would be new services for many residents.

Of those new services, policing could cost the city the most. According to city documents, the first year of police coverage and start-up costs for such things as a new patrol vehicle, increased overtime and fuel could be as much as $169,994, with the second year at $99,987.

WHO DECIDES

The city currently has annexation agreements with homeowners who represent more than 60 percent of the total property values for the area, which means City Council can decide whether to annex with no further public petition.

Most of the agreements were obtained as a requirement for hooking up to city sewer or water, city officials said.

The council is expected to make its annexation decision at a June 12 meeting, when an official hearing will take place.

On Wednesday the Council will determine if it wishes to continue the annexation proceedings. If the city proceeds, a final public hearing on annexation is expected to take place June 12.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

Comments

RetiredinWW 1 year, 7 months ago

Wow! The city has a street maintenance program? And all this time I thought it was a street DESTRUCTION program! Like the letter to the editor said recently: Take a drive on Highland Road! Sure. A couple of storm drains were added. The heavy trucks and equipment also caused the surface to crumble even more than it was!

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pleasant 1 year, 7 months ago

You are going to lose tons of agricultural land, at least when the owner sells and moves on. Sadly I think this will go through. The city council didn't listen to its citizens about the octopus, what makes you think they will listen about this. County Commissioners should get involved.

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writewinger 1 year, 7 months ago

The City cannot provide sufficient services in the existing City boundaries. What will they do with more? The additional taxes generated will not cover the needs. They seem to be proud that they have annexation signatures from 60% of homeowners and make a point of saying they do not need any further agreement to proceed with their plan. What they don't say is that the way they secured the signatures was in many cases rather slight of hand. The developers of the Table Rock, Triple Creek Additions, etc., were required to utilize City services and in turn, purchasers of homes in these additions had to sign forms agreeing to future annexation as a condition of their purchase. Many had no idea what they were signing at the time. Just a bunch of documents requiring signatures. Sign and move on or don't buy. These signatures were not secured through a door to door campaign. Possibly those in these additions may be better off in the long run...but...how about the hundred plus who will be adversely affected and want nothing to do with this annexation. The Power of Government to force people to do things they would rather not and should rightfully not have to do is truly unfortunate.

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Larch 1 year, 7 months ago

It isn't even 60% of the owners, as I understand, it's owners of 60% of the property value! A very different piece of arithmetic.

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MyFamNews 1 year, 7 months ago

The 60% of of the property values is the standard. This places those in the high dollar subdivisions at an advantage over the area. I, personally, think that is wrong, but that is the norm. The part that irritates me, is folks want to live in the country, so they buy in an open area, then want everyone , i.e. taxpayers to provide them with the amenities of city living. They knew that they would pay more for water outside the city limits.

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barracuda 1 year, 7 months ago

At the risk of sounding like I am defending the City Council... When a house is built, the builders need to have utilities set up at the new site. If the developers attempted to drill for water and put a sewer septic systems for these new additions (Table Rock/Triple Creek) It would be a lot more money passed onto the buyers. The logical and cheaper options is to use the City utilities. Also, EVERY buyer... EVERY buyer knew that this would someday be coming. It is stated in EVERY sales agreement, and relayed to the buyers buy the realtors. Realtors have to disclose what schools, Fire dept., water, sewer, upgrades and whether or not the home is in the urban growth boundry line. That is where the city got its 60% of the owners etc. Because they all have City water/sewer. Most cities have ordinances stating any home that uses city utilities will be subject to annexation. That means ALL of those owners knew!

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