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Thursday, September 9, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A growing interest in annexation

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County's effort to ease its budget problems by persuading cities to annex unincorporated areas is gaining traction, but it won't be a rapid process, aides to County Executive Ron Sims said yesterday.

"I don't think we're going to see the map change very much in the next 12 months," Karen Reed, a consultant on the annexation initiative, said before a meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council's budget committee.

Reed and Sims' budget director, Steve Call, said there has been an upsurge of interest, however, among city officials and residents of the urban areas that aren't part of a city.

Call said officials in some cities have been open to annexation even though it would put more strain on their budgets.

"Over the next two or three years, I'm very hopeful," Call said. The city councils of Kirkland and Issaquah, he noted, have directed their city staffs to negotiate terms of possible annexations with county staff.

Kirkland officials last spring said they would consider annexing 34,000 people in the North Juanita, Kingsgate and Finn Hill neighborhoods into the city of 46,000.

Issaquah is eyeing the Klahanie and South Cove/Greenwood Point areas, which could roughly double the city's population to 30,000. City officials are waiting for an offer from King County.

The County Council has set aside $10 million in incentives for cities to annex large areas. If all the urban unincorporated areas — where 218,000 people live — joined cities, the county would save an estimated $28 million a year, Call said.

A written report to the County Council summarized discussions over the future of the 10 largest urban areas where the county provides local services:

Fairwood/Petrovitsky: A citizens group is interested in incorporating part of the area, but county and Renton officials want a plan to place the entire area in one or more cities.

North Highline/White Center: The council for the unincorporated area wants the county to underwrite a study of incorporation.

Juanita/Finn Hill: Kirkland is taking a serious look at annexation but is concerned that it could generate a $3 million to $4 million deficit.

Kent Northeast/Panther Lake: Kent is interested in the area but estimates it would mean a $3 million to $4 million budget hit.

East Federal Way: The city of Federal Way is seeking annexation of three small areas this fall but worries about a $3.5 million deficit if it annexes the whole area.

West Hill/Skyway: Seattle and Renton have expressed interest in the area, and the county is supporting a citizens group's study of options.

Klahanie: County will soon make a financial offer to Issaquah. City estimates startup costs of $1.8 million and an operating deficit of $772,000.

Lea Hill: Auburn asked the county to issue $39 million in bonds to improve roads, sewers and parks, a sum the county says it can't afford.

East Renton: Renton, which has been looking at smaller annexations, has shown interest in taking the entire area.

Eastgate: Discussions with Bellevue have been aided by the county's agreement to give the city Coal Creek Park and the Surrey Downs district court property. The city projects an operating deficit of $300,000.Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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