Much to the disappointment of Bothell officials, the Snohomish County Boundary Review Board (BRB) voted 4-0 June 16 to accept a written report upholding its earlier decision rejecting the city’s bid to annex areas surrounding its northern borders.
In reacting to the decision, City Manager Bob Stowe said the BRB’s action most importantly denies the residents of the annexation area the right to vote on the shape of their local government.
“There was literally no debate or conversation,” stated Community Development Director Bill Wiselogle regarding the June 16 BRB meeting, in which one member of that board was absent.
Both Stowe and Wiselogle expressed surprise at the BRB’s actions as they said the board had invited the city to submit further information on the proposed annexation.
That information consisted of an eight-page letter giving the city’s response to several issues cited by the BRB in its initial rejection of the annexation.
The letter in particular takes issue with the arguments of the two Snohomish fire districts now servicing the targeted annexation, usually referred to as the NEWBA (North East West Bothell Annexation) area.
The affected fire districts are districts 1 and 7.
“We were disappointed and saddened by the comments the fire districts made to the BRB,” Stowe said, describing those arguments as emotional and overly critical. He especially pointed to fire service claims that lives were threatened by Bothell’s plans for emergency coverage.
BRB Chief Clerk Marsha Carlsen said new evidence was not accepted for the simple reason the board had closed its public hearing on the Bothell issue at the end of a meeting earlier this month.
“Once the hearing is closed, the hearing is closed,” she said.
Carlsen did not address the question of the city being invited to send in further information.
In its written eight-page decision, the BRB stated its main reason for rejecting Bothell’s annexation request was a lack of evidence that the city would be able to take over not just fire but also police services.
The BRB report complains in part of “insufficient evidence of planning and discussion” between Bothell and the fire districts.
According to Stowe, city and Snohomish County staffers had come to agreement on the solid-waste collection issue that gained attention a few weeks ago, when King County declared it had a contractual right to collect trash from the NEWBA if the annexation took place. The trash currently goes to Snohomish County, as the NEWBA is completely located in that county.
Stowe said Snohomish County agreed to defend the city and make it harmless in the instance of any legal action over NEWBA waste collections.
Wiselogle argued it’s unfortunate the fire and police issues have clouded the positive aspects of the annexation for NEWBA residents, whom he argued would receive better park and road maintenance, better land-use planning and other pluses Snohomish County can’t provide. He noted the annexation was initiated by citizen petition, not at the request of the city.
As for what happens next, Stowe said the city has several options, all of which are under study. Ultimately, Bothell could request a different annexation with different boundaries, appeal the BRB’s decision in court or wait until next year to try again.
“The whole situation … It’s just very frustrating,” Stowe said.