With a narrow margin of 1 vote, the Kirkland City Council voted 4 to 3 tonight to proceed with annexation of the neighborhoods of Kingsgate, Upper Juanita and Finn Hill. The annexation of these neighborhoods will fulfill a promise made by the City of Kirkland decades ago. The decision prompted cheers from the audience when the annexation vote passed.
The mood of the council was not all cheery as evidenced by somber warnings of negative financial consequences with annexation which came from some council members.
Annexation has been studied by Kirkland for the better part of a decade. Each time it was examined, finances were the stumbling block. Financial concerns about annexation still exist today as evidenced by the three no votes. Ramp up costs of annexation are estimated to be $5 million over the next 18 months. State sales tax revenue to aid Kirkland in the annexation transition costs will begin only after annexation has commenced.
During meeting agenda item 10 d., the council voted on annexation by passing Ordinance No. 4229:
(2) Ordinance No. 4229 and its Summary, Annexing Certain Territory Referred to as the Finn Hill, Kingsgate and North Juanita Annexation Area; Providing that the Property in the Annexation Area be Assessed and Taxed at the Same Rate and on the Same Basis as Other Property Within the City of Kirkland, but Without the Assumption of Voter-Approved Indebtedness; Adopting Zoning Regulations; and Fixing the Effective Date of the Annexation
The council voted as follows:
YES on Ordinance No. 4229 Mayor Jim Lauinger Deputy Mayor Joan McBride Mary-Alyce Burleigh Bob Sternoff
NO on Ordinance No. 4229 Dave Asher Jessica Greenway Tom Hodgson
The effective date of annexation will not occur for another 18 months, giving the police department time they need to hire and train additional officers. After annexation, Kirkland will become the 12th largest city in the state. A greater regional voice for Kirkland was stated to be one of the benefits of annexation.
The three "no" votes came from Councilmembers Hodgson, Greenway and Asher. Each cited financial issues as a primary reason for their vote against annexation. Councilmember Hodgson stated, "We know now, very clearly, there are serious impacts..." of annexation to existing Kirkland. He went on to say he supports annexation, however, he could not vote for the ordinance because annexation was presented to the people of Kirkland as having "no significant negative impact on Kirkland's service levels."
Outgoing Mayor Jim Lauinger, who supported annexation, expressed confidence in their decision to annex, while acknowledging the budget difficulties facing Kirkland ahead, "The new council will roll up its sleeves and you're going to be dominated by annexation and budget issues."
In closing her comments prior to the vote, Deputy Mayor Joan McBride emphasized her support for annexation by saying, "It's the right thing to do." Many in the audience nodded their heads in agreement.
For Mayor Lauinger, Mary-Alyce Burleigh and Tom Hodgson, this was their last meeting as members of the Kirkland City Council.
This action by the council assures annexation will take place. The debate is over. A decision of this magnitude is bound to stoke the flames of debate and annexation has often been discussed on this blog. The two sides made their best arguments and the city council sided in favor of annexation. Hopefully, each of us can put aside any differences annexation may have caused and focus on working together to help solve the very real and substantial budget challenges that face us all. Welcome to Kirkland.