Mayor Sandy Lucy last week expressed her disappointment that the city council gave a death sentence to a proposed annexation plan that was being prepared. She called it “politics at its worst.”
Many questions have arisen since the council voted 6-2 to kill the plan. The timing is a question. Why did Councilman Tim Brinker bring it up at his last meeting as a council member? Why did he call other council members before the meeting and ask for their support? What was the urgency to kill the proposal at that meeting? Was the Sunshine Law violated in the secret process to kill the plan? Annexation was not on the agenda for that meeting. Yet several people who have property next to the city knew Brinker was going to bring up annexation and were there to cheer him on.
In her remarks last week, the mayor explained how the city has prepared for growth because annexation has been on the horizon. The city has built a new wastewater treatment plant that can handle the areas next to the city. One reason the city asked citizens to approve a special sales tax for a four-lane Highway 100 from Interstate 44 through part of the city was for safety reasons and to prepare for growth. There are stormwater issues and a need for the city to build a large detention facility and land is needed for that. Land near the city also is needed for industrial and residential developments in the coming years.
Voluntary annexation too often results in haphazard boundary lines and can pose problems for municipal services. Proper planning is needed to avoid that situation.
Some people say an annexation proposal would not pass. However, the voters should have the opportunity to vote yes or no. They have been denied that opportunity. It’s not forced annexation when voted on by city residents and those people in the areas proposed for annexation.
Other people question the influence some nearby property owners have on members of the council who were elected by citizens in the wards they represent. Who do they represent in this issue?
The vote to drop the annexation plan being prepared was a sharp blow to members of the planning and zoning commission and city staff members, who had been working on the plan for more than a year. The process was not completed. To kill the plan without consulting with members of that board and city staff, and not to recognize the work they had been doing, was an insult.
Council members need to take the long view in annexation. Without proper planning for the future, trouble lies ahead for the city. We’re in a holding pattern now. Stagnation isn’t progress. We’re being left behind compared to other cities when it comes to annexation and having a vision for the future. Selfish interests, private agendas prevail.
There was a time when Washington was the leader in this area. What has happened? Where’s the big picture view? We need to be friendly to developers who want to provide housing, which is needed.
We need a return to the aggressive and enlightened spirit that once prevailed.