Court Sheehan remembers when the couple of hundred residents of Murphy's Corner knew each other's names, when they rode horses through what...

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Court Sheehan remembers when the couple of hundred residents of Murphy’s Corner knew each other’s names, when they rode horses through what is now Mill Creek and when his brother’s 10-acre chicken farm was a major landmark.

But many things have changed since then, Sheehan said. The area has grown rapidly in recent years — the chicken-farm property is now the campus of Jackson High School, for example.

And 132nd Street Southeast, a main route to Interstate 5, has gone from “virtually a gravel road” to a four-lane thoroughfare for an urban community sporting residential developments and a Fred Meyer store, Sheehan said.

A portion of Murphy’s Corner was annexed by Mill Creek in 1994, and on Oct. 1 about 300 homes in a 142-acre area will become part of Everett, officially consigning the community’s rural heritage to memory.

For Sheehan, who has lived in the area for about 50 years, it’s about time.

He’s been pushing for annexation for about 12 years and has seen the issue go in circles through hearings and meetings. It has even gone to the state Supreme Court in a case brought by the local fire district.

To make the annexation happen, Sheehan went door to door to get signatures from property owners representing 75 percent of the land’s assessed value. The signatures were required by state law, he explained.

Sheehan believes annexation by Everett will improve police and fire protection and subsequently may result in lower insurance rates. Taxes are also expected to drop slightly for many residents, and they’ll be able to use Everett’s libraries for free.

It’s an urban area now anyway, Sheehan said.

Everett officials agreed.

“There’s sort of a basic philosophy here that’s important. The county is really set up to provide rural services,” Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said.

“As areas become more urban, there’s kind of a natural progression about those areas wanting to become part of the city.”

According to Everett planners, there are many urban areas like Murphy’s Corner that should be part of Everett, but the city had trouble absorbing these areas after the state’s high court declared one of the procedures for annexation unconstitutional. In 2002, the court struck down the so-called petition method because it gave the power to annex an area to the property owners, who were not necessarily the residents.

But the court reversed that decision last year.

Murphy’s Corner and the Kenny annexation, a smaller area near Airport Road and 112th Street Southwest, will be the first annexations for the city in five years, said Allan Giffen, Everett’s planning director. The two are among a series of annexations expected to eventually expand the city to boundaries it has agreed upon with the county and neighboring cities.

Besides Murphy’s Corner and Kenny, three other areas are slated to be annexed within the coming year, Giffen said.

One area, Cascade Highlands/Hilton Place, just west of Hilton Lake and near southeast Everett, is scheduled to be on the Nov. 8 ballot in that area, which includes 300 homes on 80 acres. The other two areas are smaller, about an acre each.

Each annexation means lost revenue for Snohomish County Fire District 1, which battled the Murphy’s Corner annexation up to the state Supreme Court.

But the district is running out of grounds on which to fight the annexations. A court ruling last month favored the city and the annexation.

For the fire district, Everett’s annexation of a portion of Murphy’s Corner will mean a loss of nearly $100,000 a year out of a $22 million budget, said Ed Widdis, the district’s fire chief.

On the other hand, the annexation will mean about $750,000 more in revenue a year for the city, starting in 2007.

“This is a pretty cost-effective annexation for us to do,” Stephanson said.

Joan Miller, 20-year fire- district commissioner, said that though the district became interested because it stood to lose revenue, it fought the annexation because of the legal principle.

“Our stance has been … that we wanted the cities to follow” state law regulating annexations, Miller said.

She said the city was “cherry-picking” tax-rich commercial property, such as the Fred Meyer store, and dividing the neighborhood.

Under state law, Miller said, the city isn’t allowed to divide a community or annex just commercial property. The Murphy’s Corner annexation does both, she contended.

The state’s high court disagreed, saying the city had done nothing illegal.

Sheehan, who owns commercial property in the annexation area but lives south of it, said Everett didn’t decide what areas of Murphy’s Corner should be annexed — he did. He drew boundaries for the area as part of the petition method for annexation that he started.

He lamented the fact that the fire district had spent his tax dollars fighting his efforts for five years in the courts.

“They appealed every decision that was handed down, with taxpayer money,” he said.

Miller, however, said the district weighed the benefits of every lawsuit and appeal.

There are a couple of ways for a city to annex an area, each requiring time, paperwork and coordination with the county, said Giffen, Everett’s planning director. One is when property owners of the area initiate the annexation through a petition; the other is when a city initiates the proposal, which eventually is decided in a vote of the residents of the area.

But as the Murphy’s Corner proposal has shown, even if residents of the area want to join the city, it’s not a straight shot to annexation.

Sheehan is pleased that the fire district has resigned itself to the annexation. Though he said he isn’t planning to celebrate much, he joked that maybe it’s time for a little scotch and water.

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or balexander@seattletimes.com