McCormick Woods moves toward annexation

Despite several unresolved issues, a citizen’s group has decided to kick the annexation of the McCormick Woods subdivision into the City of Port Orchard into high gear.

“The stake is in the ground,” said McCormick Woods Annexation Committee Chairman Dick Davis. “We don’t know all the answers. We don’t even know all the questions. But I think we’re ready to start the process.”

Members of the committee, McCormick Woods residents and three Port Orchard City council members met Wednesday, approving a plan to send out a letter to residents alerting them to the annexation process and including a petition for them to sign and submit.

The letter, written by Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, is now being circulated in a draft form for review by all concerned parties. It promises that Port Orchard “is committed to making annexation a reality sometime in early 2009.”

The annexation rubber will hit the road on Oct. 15, with a homeowner’s meeting that will represent the first full-scale organizing effort.

At this meeting residents will be able to sign petitions, ask questions and examine all aspects of throwing in with the city.

This followed a city council meeting Tuesday night at which Coppola noted that, while there has been significant recent progress, there are still two important unresolved issues — the repair of Old Clifton Road and the construction of a local park.

“The county has set aside $650,000 for park development,” Coppola said. “But that is not enough to build a park. People are looking to the city for guidance, and if these problems aren’t resolved, then our support won’t be as strong.”

On Wednesday, McCormick Land Co. President Doug Skrobut was also clear about this situation.

“I benefit from annexation as much as anyone,” he said. “But if we don’t work out these agreements before the homeowner’s meeting, I will withdraw my support.”

The conflict is between waiting until everything is buttoned down or proceeding at full speed and hoping the problems will find a resolution.

Annexation advocates are following the later strategy, because they feel waiting is counterproductive and will suffer their momentum.

Furthermore, there is a safety net. If the obstacles are immutable, the annexation process can be stopped with only time and effort lost.

City Councilwoman Carolyn Powers said the committee should focus on whether they want to be part of the city, and let the city resolve the other questions on a parallel track.

“You should look at what you have to gain and determine if it is worth it to you,” Powers said. “And let the city resolve these issues.”

All the current city councilmembers favor annexation, with Councilman Fred Olin taking the most active role.

While saying the move toward annexation “is your own decision,” Councilman Jerry Childs feels residents will benefit from living within the city limits.

“If you are annexed, you will increase your self-determination,” Childs said. “Individuals like the idea that they can control their own destiny. When you are part of the county you represent one percent of the population. As part of the city you are 25 percent. The difference is huge.”

Other advantages, listed by Powers, include the removal of a surcharge on utility bills, an improvement in police protection, and the ability to elect representatives.

In order for the annexation to proceed, it would need support from property owners adding up to 75 percent of the community’s assessed value.

This adds up to $328 million, so property owners representing $246 million, will need to sign the petition, with all petition signatures gathered within a six-month period.

The red letter day for annexation is Aug. 1, 2009, the latest date by which it can be approved in order to get tax revenue for the following year.

The city would need to meet this deadline in order to receive tax revenue in 2010.

After each assessment the numbers change and the process begins all over again.

Advocates have six months from the time it gathers the first signature to submit the completed petition.

After this, annexation takes about 60 days. So the final deadline for petition completion would be June 1.

There is another political deadline, as candidates intending to run for office must file the first week in June.

Port Orchard will elect four members of the city council in 2009, and McCormick Woods residents will represent a significant voting block. But with all these requirements it seems unlikely that a McCormick Woods resident will be elected to city government prior to 2011.

The biggest obstacle to annexation is communication based, with advocates unsure about how to reach all the residents.

Many leave the region for the winter, and others are likely to ignore any unfamiliar mail.

As a result, the strategy will be multifaceted, including going door to door, a Web site and phone calls.

Word of mouth will also be a valuable channel, with each committee member charged with convincing their neighbors.

At Wednesday’s meeting, residents asked committee members how annexation will benefit them, in detail.

The answers were provided, but temperatures rose slightly. Davis later apologized.

“I’m sorry if we seemed to be a bit testy here,” he said. “But it is discouraging that after putting out 23 newsletters people don’t know the answers to these questions.”

The city is providing support for an web site and will verify the petition signatures. Expenses for annexation are often donated by Davis and other supporters, and the cost of each mailing or event must be closely monitored. Placing Coppola’s letter into utility bills will be accomplished with volunteer labor. and it is probable that several city council members will participate in an envelope-stuffing event prior to the mailing.

Ultimately, annexation advocates will use both the stick and the carrot to plead their case. Depending on Kitsap County for services will be a losing proposition in the future, as revenue sources decrease.

“We will help each other,” Childs said. “Annexation will legitimize the city, and empower McCormick Woods. You will still be an upscale community full of talented people, but you will have increased self-determination and will be part of the revitalization of downtown.”

This is a draft of a letter that will be included in upcoming utility bills for residents of McCormick Woods. Written by Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, it kicks off an effort to annex the subdivision.

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