Some city officials agree that the city needs to move forward with annexation in the future despite the city council’s vote last month not to proceed with the plan developed by the planning and zoning commission.
That includes Councilman Jeff Mohesky who voted with the majority Dec. 17 to scuttle the plan that was over a year in the making.
“This is not over,” Mohesky said at Monday night’s plan board meeting.
Mohesky said he felt his “failure” in the process was that he didn’t convey concerns he had about the plan to the commission during its development. After multiple meetings, marked by vocal opposition from outlying residents, the commission submitted its annexation proposal to the council last summer.
The council made its decision to drop the plan before it had completed a series of scheduled workshops on the proposal.
Mohesky stressed that he was not influenced by anyone in his vote but said he had sensed the direction the council was headed.
“I didn’t cave to anyone,” Mohesky said, adding that the answer he was looking for in the process was “why this was a good plan. I should’ve expressed my opinion here rather than wait for the council to take it up.
“I don’t think annexation is a bad thing,” he remarked. “I think this will happen again.”
Tom Holdmeier, board chairman, said he was “disappointed” by the council’s unexpected decision and the way it was made “before it was fully looked at and vetted. We spent over a year working on this. The city staff put in many hours working on this.”
The annexation plan was not on the council’s Dec. 17 agenda and the motion by Tim Brinker to end the process came during the council discussion portion of the meeting. Steve Sullentrup offered a second to Brinker’s motion.
Samantha Cerutti Wacker, member, asked Mohesky about how the vote occurred. Annexation was not on the agenda, but people who were opposed were at the meeting, she said.
“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Mohesky replied. Many of those same people attended many of the meetings, he added.
Mayor Sandy Lucy explained that once the motion was made and it received a second, the council had no choice and was required to take a vote.
Mohesky said one of his concerns was how the plan board cut out some parcels because property owners complained, while others were kept in. “It appeared we were throwing darts.”
Holdmeier questioned why the council didn’t follow through on the process, noting that the council had the final say and could have made changes to the maps.
“I didn’t expect the maps to stay the same,” he remarked.
“I would’ve rather you came back with a smaller map,” Mohesky said, “and show why you wanted to do this.”
Prior to the annexation discussion, the plan board continued a discussion on ways to promote more affordable housing in the city by reducing residential lot sizes and street widths, among other things.
John Borgmann, board member, said by changing codes to make it easier to develop affordable housing may spur the need for annexation.
“Let’s look at the lot sizes, then refocus (on annexation),” Borgmann said.
“We can’t let this just sit and forget about it,” he said. “We have to bring it back.”
“We need to look at all of this,” Lucy remarked. “It’s important for the future growth of Washington.”
Kevin Cundiff, member, said he “cringes” when someone uses the term “involuntary annexation.”
“We didn’t get to find out. It didn’t get to the voters,” Cundiff remarked.
“I really think we’re 20 years behind,” Holdmeier said. “Voluntary annexation doesn’t work.” He said if he lived outside the city he wouldn’t want to be annexed either, “because I’m getting everything for free already.”
Support for Annexation
Wayne Berry, member, said he feels the city proposed to annex too much land. “That’s what I’m hearing people say.”
“That’s where we may not have communicated as well,” Holdmeier said. “I’ve had many people call me who wanted to come into the city but they didn’t want to stand up in front of their neighbors” and take an opposing position.
“We have to accept that if we take it up again, people for it won’t show up but those opposed will,” Wacker said.
Lucy said better “education” on the issue could have made a difference.
“I think we need to be progressive and move forward,” Holdmeier said. “We need to keep Washington growing in a strong, controlled manner. We’re becoming an aging town.”
Lucy said the city needs to foster affordable housing as a way to attract younger people to live and raise families here.