WALLA WALLA — Scaling back a southside annexation proposal by more than half wasn’t good enough for City Council, who voted to nix the entire plan Wednesday night.
Council voted 4-3 against annexation, with members Conrado Cavazos, Jerry Cummins, Shane Laib and Chris Plucker defeating a motion that would have established a resolution to set reduced boundaries and move on with further proceedings.
Council members Barbara Clark, Mary Lou Jenkins and Mayor Jim Barrow voted for the resolution.
City officials had been working toward annexing 871 acres south of Walla Walla. But during a February meeting to review the proposal it met heavy opposition from dozens of people who criticized the economic feasibility, lack of notice, loss of property rights, environmental issues and staunch resistance to becoming part of the city while having no vote in the matter.
“You want to take on more land? I think you better take care of what you got,” land owner Doug Saturno told Council members at Wednesday’s meeting. “All those folks in that area, they weren’t able to vote for you. And I think it is important that you listen to the citizens. And you need to listen to the citizens in the county also.”
Heeding opponents advice, earlier this week city officials redrew the annexation boundaries to encompass the main three housing areas: the Costello Addition and Triple Creek and Table Rock subdivisions. But the plan still included a large number of rural homes.
The west side of the new boundary would have skirted Cottonwood Road and ended at the southern boundary of Table Rock. The eastern side would have continued where Fern Street ends, again ending at Table Rock’s southern boundary.
Had it passed, more than 200 home owners currently connected to city water or sewer would have seen their rates drop by one-third, saving some close to $534 per year, according to city estimates.
“When we moved into the subdivision, it was with the understanding that we would be annexed into the city. The 150 percent rate that we pay is burdensome. And I would like to be annexed,” Triple Creek resident Scott Peters told the Council.
Not all residents would have gained financially. City officials estimated about 37 homes on septic systems, whose owners would have faced a $35 per month penalty if they did not hook up to the city sewer.
“Now you guys want to take money from me when I am not connected to your system,” Reser Road resident Donald Anderson said. “I have a concern over why I should have to pay you not to tax your services.”
About 120 people attended the meeting, 19 of whom made comments. Of those comments only a few were for annexation.
The proposal also drew harsh criticism from some Council members, especially Laib. He questioned whether the city would come out ahead and noted that the overall result would be a loss of $120,000 to extend police and other services to the area.
“I am sorry we can’t go there,” Laib said. “And at the end of the day it is economics ... right now it is not the right time to annex. We cannot afford a $120K loss to the city.”
Said Plucker: “It seems to me that this is not worth disrupting the lives of 37 households negatively. ... It is not worth it to me in the spirit of just administration to go after this annexation at this time to disrupt these people’s lives.”
Annexation proponents on the Council countered that a majority of the people living in the area would have benefitted.
“I think it would be disingenuous of us to most of the people ... to disregard their desire and not annex because a few people in those areas don’t want to be annexed,” Mayor Barrow said.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.