City may switch gears on annexation
Friday, January 18, 2013
WENATCHEE — Reversing their earlier wait-and-see stance, city officials may try to annex islands of county land inside the city against the will of the people living there.
The City Council on Thursday gave Mayor Frank Kuntz permission to work with Chelan County commissioners and rural fire officials on a plan to annex the three islands along Walnut Street and Fifth Street, as well as a large area of South Wenatchee near the Apple Yard and the Circle Street neighborhood.
Mayor Frank Kuntz called the potential annexation a “lose-lose-lose” situation, adding that, “The city will lose. The county will lose. The fire district will lose. But it’s the right thing to do.”
He said he believes it’s the right thing because many of the areas are now under-served by government services, with deteriorating roads, no sidewalks and no sewer. He also said there is often confusion over which police or fire agency should be the first responders to those county areas in and around the city.
“Annexing residential properties is certainly not a money generator,” he added. “It typically costs more to provide services than you get in property tax revenues.”
At a glance: Annexation targets
Walnut Street area (primarily between Maple Street and Locust Lane, between Western Avenue and Stella Avenue)
Annual property tax revenue: $108,716.
Fifth Street (one neighborhood encompassing Rocklund Drive and Emerald, Agate and Garnet places and a second area with homes on Fifth Street, Western Avenue, Poplar Street, and Lexington and Concord places)
Annual property tax revenue: $52,183
Annual property tax revenue: $8,324
South Wenatchee (Roughly between Viewdale Avenue and Beuzer Street west of the Malaga-Alcoa Highway)
Annual property tax revenue: $131,141
But, he said if those areas are annexed, emergency and other government services will be more coordinated to those areas, and the neighborhoods will eventually get improved streets and sewer service.
A few years ago, the city launched a widespread annexation effort. At the time, city officials told residents that their property taxes would go up slightly — about $60 a year for a $200,000 home — if they are annexed; that people already hooked up to sewer service would see a $114 drop in their annual bill; and that garbage service would be cheaper and would come with recycling and four free self-dumps a year.
They were told that benefits to annexation included access to city sewer, improved street maintenance and repairs, next-day building inspections and same-day building permits, and a city code compliance officer who investigates neighborhood complaints.
Some areas were annexed with the support of the public, but property owners in many of the areas vehemently opposed it. So the council decided to wait for those residents to approach the city about annexation. Last fall, the council took another look at annexation and decided to stick with their soft approach, hoping that sewer service would eventually lure people into the city.
Kuntz told the council during its annual retreat on Thursday that he was approached a few months ago by Chelan County Commissioner Ron Walter who asked if the city would be interested in annexing Boodry Street, Beuzer Street and Terminal Avenue. They met again about a month ago and Kuntz asked Walter if the county would support the city annexing the islands on Fifth Street and Walnut Street.
“He said he wasn’t opposed to it,” Kuntz said.
Normally, the city would need the approval of a majority of property owners to annex the land. But a 2009 state law allows cities to annex property if they have support from county commissioners and the rural fire district where the land is located, said Steve King, the city’s director of public works engineering.
The city may have to compensate Chelan County Fire District 1 for lost tax revenues caused by any annexation, Kuntz said.
The four areas being considered for annexation total about 640 acres and include 782 separate addresses. They would collectively generate just over $300,000 a year in property tax revenues for the city, King said.
He said annexing the land would cost the city $500,000 a year or more in added costs, for a net loss of about $200,000 a year. The costs are primarily in road maintenance and public safety, including court and jail expenses, he said. Some of the South Wenatchee neighborhoods have high rates of crime that will require greater police response, many have streets are in poor condition, and the Boodry/Beuzer/Terminal neighborhood has frequent flooding problems, King said.
Police Chief Tom Robbins said the three streets generate numerous calls for domestic violence, drugs, alcohol-related offenses and some major crimes. He said the city may have to hire another police officer if they are annexed.
Kuntz said the annexations would require board approval from the Wenatchee City Council, Chelan County commissioners and Fire District 1 commissioners. If any one does not approve it, then annexation would require a vote of the people living in those areas. It’s not clear how long it could take to annex the properties. Kuntz said it will depend on how talks with the other agency officials go.
“We’re going to have some more conversations and see where it takes us,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know where it’s going to take us.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152
Christine Pratt contributed to this report.
MORE LIKE THIS
Wednesday, June 19
WVC Hepcats Swing Dance Classes
Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, June 19
Live Music: Stephen & Sergio @ Icicle Brewing Company
Icicle Brewing Company, 7 p.m.
Thursday, June 20
BNI Better Business Boosters
Rivertop Bar & Grill, 201 N. Wenatchee Ave., 7:30 a.m.
Thursday, June 20
BNI High Noon Achievers
Red Lion Hotel, noon