King County neighborhoods enter the mix
King County’s push to rid itself of unincorporated land could torpedo the efforts of a local group seeking annexation by the city of Bothell.
The North East West Bothell Association (NEWBA) has been lobbying for more than three years to bring its collective Snohomish County neighborhoods into the Northshore city.
An election will take place no later than the end of 2009 to decide whether residents living in those unincorporated areas favor the idea.
NEWBA gathered more than 1,000 signatures for a petition requesting the vote.
The group’s dream appeared to be on track until late May, when the Kirkland City Council voted to table its consideration of annexing the Kingsgate, Juanita and Finn Hill neighborhoods — located south of Bothell.
“The council wanted to get through the budget, and they realized some challenges they needed to overcome,” said city of Kirkland spokeswoman Marie Stake.
Now the city of Bothell is contemplating whether it should adopt those areas for itself.
Kirkland is entitled to first dibs on the neighborhoods, and would need to relinquish its claim in order for any other city to take control of the territory.
Washington’s Growth Management Act encourages cities to annex unincorporated lands in urban areas.
These neighborhoods are known as municipal urban-growth areas (MUGAs) in Snohomish County and potential annexation areas (PAAs) in King County.
The state has promised incentives for adopting these territories as part of an effort to control urban sprawl.
But cities must commence annexation by January 2010 in order to receive the perk, which creates a time crunch.
King County has offered to further sweeten annexation deals by distributing a combined $10 million to municipalities that adopt its unincorporated neighborhoods.
Providing services to those areas is proving more than the county can bear, particularly with an $86.5 million budget shortfall anticipated for 2009.
That isn’t the case in neighboring Snohomish County, where widespread construction is bringing in new revenues.
All things being equal in terms of start-up and service costs, Bothell would be more likely to adopt unincorporated land from King County because of the added financial incentive.
Auburn received $1.25 million in February to help pay for the costs of taking in an area with 15,000 residents.
King County’s political leaders have also been more proactive than their Snohomish County counterparts in showing support for annexation.
Executive Ron Sims and four members of the King County Council wrote to Bothell encouraging the city to move swiftly in considering adoption of the Kirkland PAA, stating that “Bothell’s efforts may provide the last opportunity for any near term annexation” of the area.
The Bothell City Council has agreed to study the feasibility of assuming responsibility for those neighborhoods, which includes six square miles of territory and around 20,000 residents.
King County will pay for half the costs of that analysis, which has an estimated price tag of $85,000.
Bothell City Manager Bob Stowe has recommended that the council pursue only one annexation area for the next several years to avoid jeopardizing current service levels and the success of other initiatives such as downtown revitalization.
NEWBA representatives say their group feels blindsided by the situation.
“We want to know what’s going to happen,” said member Gene Grieve. “We would like to see our area get annexed first.”
Consultants have estimated that the state’s annexation incentive would give Bothell $2 million annually over the next 10 years for adopting its Snohomish County MUGA, which includes six square miles of territory and around 20,000 residents.
An analysis completed in 2006 also indicates that the revenues generated by these areas would exceed operating expenditures by $626,000, although that figure does not include start-up costs.
New construction could bring additional money in the form of impact fees.
“In my opinion, the MUGAs are much easier to manage, plus they’re a cash cow,” Grieve said.