It’s obvious to former Issaquah City Councilman David Kappler which city should annex Klahanie, an affluent unincorporated King County community of more than 10,000.
Klahanie should join Sammamish, he says, because the triangular-shaped neighborhood is bounded on two sides by the city, while Issaquah is attached to it only by a sliver of land.
“Just looking at a map tells you a lot. There’s nothing we could do more efficiently than Sammamish,” said Kappler, who voted against annexing Klahanie to Issaquah in 2005.
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But a Feb. 11 special election that could be approved by the Metropolitan King County Council on Monday would allow Klahanie residents to vote for annexation to Issaquah. Opponents of an Issaquah annexation are urging residents to vote no so Sammamish has a shot at acquiring the area.
Klahanie residents have a lot to gain if they’re incorporated into a city: lower taxes, more local law enforcement and the ability to hold office in a local government. A Klahanie home assessed at $320,000 would pay about $380 less in taxes and fees every year after an annexation to Issaquah, according to a study the city commissioned.
Sammamish and Issaquah would also have a lot to gain if either annexed the community. The city of Issaquah’s study showed the city would take in $6.48 million a year from Klahanie residents while paying about $5.84 million a year to service the area. A population increase could help the cities qualify for more federal grant money. The city that annexes the land could also qualify for a 0.1 state sales-tax credit for 10 years.
Because Sammamish wasn’t incorporated when the county’s comprehensive growth-management plan was established, it has never been officially considered a city that has a right to annex. Sammamish city officials hoped the Boundary Review Board for King County would change that earlier this year so that a special election could give Klahanie residents the opportunity to join their city.
But the board decided not to because Issaquah already had a right to acquire the area and its efforts were already under way.
If the annexation to Issaquah is turned down in the February special election, the Growth Management Plan Council could consider remapping potential areas for annexation in the county’s growth plan so that Sammamish could acquire the area.
It’s unlikely that would happen, though, unless the Issaquah City Council decides to relinquish annexation rights, said Karen Wolf, the growth-management council’s senior policy analyst.
Rob Young, a 24-year Klahanie resident who has led the effort to be annexed to Issaquah, says Sammamish is speaking up too late.
“Sammamish had more than a decade to change the annexation area to take us, and we would have been grateful for it. But it was never done, never pursued, or brought up until the last moment,” Young, 55, said. “I’ve been working on this for three years, and it’s happening because of hard work, a lot of contacts and a lot of meetings so that we can finish this and move on to something else.”
, chair of Klahanie Choice, a group that opposes the Issaquah annexation, said she worries that her neighborhood’s tax dollars would be more focused on the Central Issaquah Plan, intended on making Issaquah’s downtown more dense and developed, and not her own neighborhood.
O’Malley, who is also a former president of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, said that although she suspects overall taxes and fees would be lower if Klahanie were annexed to Issaquah, Sammamish’s lack of city debt could allow for quicker road repairs and emergency-services coverage.
An Eastside Fire & Rescue station located inside Sammamish city limits has been servicing Klahanie for years but could be swallowed up soon in an independent fire department Sammamish is interested in creating. That could force Issaquah to buy that station or help fund another one in the area.
Although Young has accused Sammamish of trying to use the fire station as a bargaining chip, Sammamish city officials say their desire to start their own fire department preceded annexation attempts.
If Klahanie were annexed to Sammamish, it would continue to be serviced by the King County Sheriff’s Office. The Issaquah Police Department would work in Klahanie if the area were annexed to Issaquah.
Either way, O’Malley says a potential annexation to Sammamish needs to be further researched before other Klahanie residents permanently commit to being part of another city.
“Annexing is like a marriage without an option for divorce,” O’Malley said.
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.