Comments for and against the city’s proposed annexation plan were voiced during a public hearing Monday night.
The city council held the hearing on the annexation Plan of Intent prior to passing ordinances to take the next step in the process.
Approximately 80 people — the majority opposing annexation — attended the hearing held prior to the regular council meeting.
Eight people spoke against the plan, while five supported it and encouraged the council to move forward.
Mary Waterman Licklider, whose family owns 4 acres on the north side of Highway 100, remarked that she’s disappointed in the process because in 2012 the council had indicated plans to pursue voluntary, not forced, annexation.
Waterman said she has letters from 12 area property owners who are concerned about “urban creep,” and was disappointed that her family was not invited to a meeting the city had with residents of Baker Estates, a small subdivision adjacent to the 4 acres her family farms.
City officials have indicated in the past that one reason for annexing the small parcel was to bring that portion of Highway 100 right of way into the city for police response and enforcement.
Waterman said she was disappointed that the only reason for annexing their parcel was to “tidy up” the boundary.
Bill Miller Sr., president of the Washington Civic Industrial Corporation and the 353 Redevelopment Corporation, said both those groups sent letters of support for annexation.
“The city did an excellent job” in preparing the annexation and showed great patience in the process, Miller said. He said that industrial prospects want to be in a city that is growing.
“We’re behind in annexation,” he said. Pacific and Union have been moving forward with annexation, he added. “We’ve been standing still.”
Miller remarked that for the city taxes they will pay, residents of the annexation areas “will get more than their money’s worth.” He asked the council to give “equal weight” to the citizens who support the annexation plan.
Two residents of South Point Road, Judy Verdine and Bernie Westhoelter, argued that the only reason given for annexing a section of the road and property along the west side was to allow city police to control speeding.
Verdine said adding that stretch of South Point Road was an “afterthought” and not reasonable. She said the council should wait until the entire eastern area is laid out and voted on.
Westhoelter argued that for the last “30 years” the city has been following voluntary annexation “and it’s been working.” He said that controlling speeding does not fit the “reasonable and necessary” definition in the annexation law.
Dick Stratman, former mayor and councilman, said Washington is a larger community than just the area inside the city limits and the people need to put the interest of that overall community first.
“For Washington to grow and prosper we must pursue annexation,” he said. “We need to control growth. That is a valid reason” for annexation.
Stratman noted that opponents say the city has “nothing to offer,” then proceeded to ask them where do they shop, where do they go to church and school and where do they get their fire protection, among other things.
He said Washington citizens pay the major part of fire protection services for the surrounding rural areas.
Also, he said, 92 percent of the revenue generated for the Washington Special Road District comes from property taxes paid in Washington.
“It’s time for the citizens to put the city first,” he remarked.
John Borgmann, a planning and zoning commission member, said that group worked 18 months developing a larger annexation plan that’s been pared down by the council.
Years ago, there was strong opposition when the city proposed annexing Dawn Valley subdivision, Borgmann, a resident of the subdivision, said. “Ask the people today and they will say it was the best thing that happened for that area,” he noted.
Jerome Maune operates a seasonal fireworks stand on a parcel at Highway 100 and Bluff Road which is owned by the Doug Hazel family.
If that parcel comes into the city, Maune would not be able to operate the stand there because of city codes. He said the annexation would not benefit him or the Hazel family.
“I’m against it. It won’t benefit anyone and will be a big hardship for my family,” Maune said.
Al Fischer, who owns an undeveloped lot in Meadowlake Farms subdivision, said his biggest concern is the annexation of agricultural land. “It’s not right to absorb family farms,” he said.
Fischer asked for a show of hands for and against annexation. After the hearing, he said 70 people in the room were against the plan and nine expressed support.
“We have to work together to have a plan that makes sense,” said Kurt Unnerstall, who owns property off South Point Road. He argued that the only fair way to set boundaries is to follow section lines.
Tom Holdmeier, planning and zoning board chairman, thanked the council for “tackling this tough issue.”
“I think this is a good plan,” Holdmeier said. “Now, we should let the people decide. Let them vote on it.”
“I can honestly say I’m excited about coming into the city because of the services you provide,” said Mike Wood, a Meadowlake Farms homeowner, who supports annexation.
“All the questions have been sufficiently answered,” Wood said. “I’d like you to proceed.”
Other people who spoke against the plan were Jeff Adams, who lives off Westlink Industrial Drive, and Pete Wahlig, who lives in Meadowlake Farms.
Adams said annexation would not benefit him at this time.
Wahlig said city officials gave misinformation to residents regarding police mutual aid and that residents may have to pay up to $20,000 to upgrade the subdivision’s sewage treatment plant to meet new state standards.
A court reporter recorded all of the comments at the hearing. Speakers were limited to three minutes to state their positions.