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Annexation topic ignites city council discussion

POULSBO — After a heated discussion Wednesday night between Little Norway’s city council members, a 5-1 vote authorized the circulation of a petition that will address a possible 31.5-acre annexation west of current city limits. The debate over the city’s ability to service Poulsbo’s increasing area and how it should plan for annexations in the future rose with the presentation of the Gaines annexation. The property is located immediately south of Liberty Bay Road.

In the end, Councilwoman Kim Crowder stood alone against the petition while the rest of council on hand approved it. Councilwoman Connie Lord was not present.

The Gaines annexation was submitted in July after resident Richard Gaines entered a utility extension request October 2006. The application designated eight parcels, or 2.6 acres of land, and had positive representation from residents holding at least 60 percent of the property’s assessed value. Additional property owners then requested to join the proposed annexation, making the area 31.5 acres. An alternative 37.5-acre area was also considered, but did not have enough concurring representation to be viable.

The 31.5-acre area includes 16 parcels and a 350-foot portion of Liberty Bay Road, which the county would ask the city to take over if the annexation is approved.

“I think that we need a special guidline for how we do these annexations,” Crowder said. “We should be driving where we want our city developed.”

Crowder said the inclusion of small parcels of land to the city’s limits without a comprehensive annexation plan is “putting the cart before the horse.” In the case of annexing land, the city should assume it will be developed, she pointed out.

Councilman Mike Regis, who currently chairs the council’s public works committee, urged his fellow council members to withhold any decisions until the city’s public works department could address the issue. Hearing from the planning department is not enough to ascertain the city’s ability to take on services for the area, and the council should be leery of approving movement on the subject before its impacts are known, he said.

“Can we spell Tibbetts?” he asked. “I don’t want to get ahead of the public works director’s capability of service.”

Councilman Jim Henry argued that, despite the issues, the city should not deny the group the right to petition.

Crowder agreed, but countered the city should respect them by providing more guiding information before further steps are taken.

Councilman and public works committee member Ed Stern said the issue of creating a policy for annexations arises on a case-by-case basis.

“We bump up against this every other time,” he said.

Stern said the issues of annexation and development are often intertwined, which is not fair to the annexation process.

“There’s a concern about the rate and scope of development in Poulsbo,” he said. “It’s natural to want to peek behind the curtain and see what’s coming next, but that’s a little unfair.”

Stern said the assumption that an annexation is a move toward development shouldn’t be made, especially since residents simply wanting to hook up to the city’s sewer system can only do so by becoming part of the city. The public works committee is working on a checklist that would address this problem and separate the two issues, he said.

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