Status – Spring 2011

Washington State’s Growth Management Act mandates Kirkland to annex Finn Hill (including Holmes Point), northern Juanita and Kingsgate before 2012. This could very well occur sometime in the next few years. It would increase Kirkland’s population by 44,860 (77%), from 34,300 to 79,160. The Finn Hill population is 12,600.

Kirkland commissioned a study of the cost of annexation (see “Kirkland’s Cost Study” in the Contents panel to the left for the Executive Summary of this report). It was based on the assumptions that taxes and fees paid to King County now would be transferred to Kirkland, and that all services throughout the proposed annexation area would be brought to the level provided by Kirkland City to its residents now.

Proposed Annexation area. Click for larger view.

This study showed that the net increase in Kirkland’s operating cost would be $3.4 million per year (equal to an 8.4% of its operating budget), and that there would be additional one-time capital costs of $100 million, including $27.4 million for roads and transportation and $68.8 million for parks.

Understandably, these projected costs caused a lot of concern when the City Council reviewed them at its retreat this past March, and raised issues about not annexing some parts or all of the proposed annexation area.

However, many of the actual costs of annexation would be less than those projected by the cost study, because the service levels wanted or needed in parts of the proposed annexation are less than those assumed in the cost study, and because of the method used to calculate net capital costs (see section on Annexation Costs, below).

Currently, the Kirkland City Council plans to reevaluate the net costs of annexation, using more realistic assumptions about the levels of service that would be needed.

DCNA Position on Annexation

DCNA favors annexation of the Holmes Point – Finn Hill area by Kirkland, provided that the current special zoning is continued, several related matters are agreed upon, and annexation does not increase taxes. This position was favored by 83% of the DCNA membership when surveyed in April, with 38% of all DCNA members responding.

Finn Hill Citizens Committee on Annexation

Last year, DCNA examined various issues related to annexation, informed the Kirkland City Council of its interest in annexation and desire to be involved in considerations of it, and formed a Committee on Annexation, with Frank Radford as chair. This committee was later expanded to be more representative of the greater Finn Hill Area, and named the Finn Hill Citizens Committee on Annexation.

DCNA Concerns

Environmental Issues
As a locally oriented environmental organization, DCNA is particularly interested in how Kirkland might deal with local environmental issues; particularly the special zoning of the Holmes Point – Finn Hill area (the “SDO,” see below), which protects this highly erosion and land slide prone region from destructive erosion as land is developed; and other measures preserving parks and undeveloped green spaces.

According to informed observers, the Kirkland City Council has a definite environmental orientation, with several very interested members. Kirkland’s environmental policies generally appear to be well developed and well implemented, with enforcement of proper wetland and creek set backs. Kirkland appears to follow through on its planning commitments Its cost study cites much higher potential revenue commitments for park land acquisition and maintenance than the County could provide.

Property Taxes
Although property taxes have risen substantially in Kirkland and King County, Kirkland’s cost analysis shows that they are lower in Kirkland than in the County. For a residence having the median sales price within the proposed annexation area, of $235,000, taxes and fees were $3,321 per year in 1999 in unincorporated King County, but would have been $3,050 if the same property had been annexed to Kirkland. Property assessments would continue to be made by the King County Assessor, whether in King County or annexed by Kirkland.

<strong>Service Levels and Annexation Costs</strong>
Many of the costs of annexation would be less than what the cost study project, partly because the service levels needed are less than those assumed in the study, and partly because of the methods used to calculate some of the costs Some examples are given below.

Service Levels: Much of the projected costs of annexing Finn Hill, of $2 million per year operating costs, $12.3 million for parks and $15 million for streets and sidewalks, would not be be necessary. Residents of Holmes Point and Finn Hill west of Juanita Drive do not need or want widened roads or more sidewalks, or the amount of police protection typical of Kirkland’s commercially developed downtown and Totem Lake ares. There already is far more park land in this area than required by Kirkland’s standards, and extensive trail development would not be wanted. (The 40 acre school land tract would be a very important acquisition, but that is justified primarily by the needs of current Kirkland residents living in Juanita.)

Capital Costing Method: The cost study calculates the cost of capital acquisitions by subtracting the projected amount of new revenue during a period of six years from the costs of acquisition. However, six years is too short a period on which to base revenue projections for such long term assets as streets, sidewalks, office space, and park land. If the costs for these capital projects were reduced by revenue during a more realistic period, of 20 years rather than 6 years, the projected net deficits would be greatly reduced and some would be converted into projected revenue gains.

Development and Zoning Density
Kirkland has been heavily involved in housing development, both in the downtown area and in Juanita, whereas much less development has occurred in the unincorporated areas north of Juanita. However, there is no evidence of the County’s having controlled housing development; in fact, it is encouraged. The difference is more likely due to lower commercial interest in the less urban areas, than to any bias in favor of or against development.

The quality of these developments suggests that Kirkland exercises considerably better control over project design than is evident in some local housing recently approved by King County. The current King County Comprehensive plan includes changes which promote additional housing density.

Both Kirkland and the unincorporated areas north of Kirkland were up-zoned after passage of the GMA in the early 1980s. The housing density of some recently annexed parts of Kirkland was also increased at that time, but this was due to the GMA; not a consequence of annexation. This led to misunderstanding in some recently annexed parts of Kirkland at the time.

Kirkland City Council members are elected at large; not by district. Therefore, if annexed, we would lose the benefits we have had from Jane Hague’s exceptionally good district representation on environmental issues at the King County Council. However, the 34,300 population of the proposed annexation area would constitute 43% of Kirkland’s total population after annexation, with the Finn Hill – Holmes Point sub-area’s 12,600 residents constituting 20% of the total. This should make for a very significant voice in policy generation. Moreover, Kirkland has established community advisory committees to facilitate policy input.

The Growth Management Act
The Growth Management Act (GMA) prescribes increased housing density in parts of King County selected for urban development, and incorporation or annexation of the urban parts of the County into townships, “in order to provide more locally based, efficient and responsive government in well populated areas,” with the County remaining responsible for non-urban areas and for various county-wide functions.

The Boundary Review Board has assigned the areas north of Juanita including the Holmes Point area to Kirkland. If Kirkland decides against annexation, the area could be reassigned to Kenmore.

Neither incorporation as a city nor annexation by Kenmore seems likely, because of our small tax base, and because Kenmore has too many financial problems of its own. It is not likely that the Holmes Point area would remain permanently unincorporated, because of pressures generated by the GMA. If we did, we could become isolated in respect to County services and representation

Annexation Process
An election would occur if called for by Kirkland, or by 10% of the voters in the Proposed Annexation Area (PAA), and if Kirkland agreed. A majority vote of all qualified voters throughout the PAA would be required. Annexation without a vote could occur if petitioned by the owners of 60% of the total assessed property value in the PAA, and the City agreed. The entire PAA, any of its 3 sub-areas (Finn Hill, Juanita and Kingsgate), or a redrawn PAA could be annexed, and individual sub-areas could be annexed at different times.

Contact Information

Contact information for persons  involved with public issues:

Councilmember Jane Hague
King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue, Room 1200
Seattle, WA 98104-3272
206 296 1011, Fax: 206-296-0198

Executive Ron Simms
King County Courthouse
516 3rd Ave, Room 400
Seattle, WA 98014
206 296 4040

Governor Gary Locke
P.O. Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
360 902 4111

Senator Rosemary McAuliffe
402-A John A. Cherberg Building
P. O. Box 40401
Olympia WA 98504-0401
425 481 7459

Representativ Jeanne Edwards
425 786 7900

Representative Al O’Brian
425 7712141

Mayor Greg Nickels
600 4th Avenue, 12th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
206 684 4000 Fax: 206 684 5360

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