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.
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.
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 email@example.com or 526-8325.