Annexation drive nearing goal

Advocates of the proposed annexation of McCormick Woods are moving closer to the total required to approve the action, using a combination of a petition drive and recalculation of the the support that’s already been received.

Throughout, the self-proclaimed “amateurs” who are running the effort are learning a lot about how government works and how the success of any project depends on the details.

“This will change the dynamics of our community,” said Annexation Committee President Dick Davis. “There is what it means today, and what it will mean 10 years from today, when it will create an entirely new environment for the city.”

Supporters now project the petition drive will gather all the needed signatures by the end of 2008. While the support depends on individual property value, it was estimated that support from only 50 more homeowners would push it over the top.

The meeting resulted in an additional boost when the numbers were recalculated to determine that the measure had gained 63 percent of the needed support instead of the 55 percent that was initially reported.

The petition drive, which began Oct. 1, needs support from property owners adding up to 75 percent of the community’s assessed value. This is estimated at $328 million, requiring property owners representing $246 million to commit to the idea.

On Tuesday, Port Orchard Planning Director James Weaver disclosed that annexation advocates don’t need to gather petitions in the neighborhood known as The Ridge, as a condition of supplying sewer service is that residents cannot oppose annexation.

The neighborhood’s assessed value is $26 million, with $6 million already committed. This new information allowed the addition of $20 million and eight percentage points to the total.

Another recalculation could result from the removal of land owned by the school district from the valuation, although this would require a rules exception that would need to be completed during the petition drive.

Additionally, there are a few parcels owned by the city of Port Orchard that could be put in the support column.

These extra numbers are welcomed, but annexation advocates are confident they can gather the requirewd percentage through the petition drive.

And while the goal is 75 percent they are hoping to exceed that level by five points to compensate for any names who might be disqualified.

All names must be gathered within a six-month window, which ends April 1.

Homes changing hands during this period where the original owner has signed the petition will be flagged by the assessor when the complete petition is submitted.

For this reason, Weaver, a licensed real estate broker, will scan the local Multiple Listing Service for alerts about property transfers.

“We don’t want to submit our petitions and find out that some of them don’t qualify,” Davis said.

The process has gathered momentum, with many supporters signing petitions who had been waiting to see whether their neighbors supported the idea.

Davis likened this behavior to the old proverb of success having many fathers while failure is an orphan.

It is not as private as an election, since names submitted on a petition become public record.

As a result, the committee will not submit the names until the goal has been reached, to protect signers’ privacy and insulate them from any pressure groups — although no organized opposition to annexation currently exists.

“If we meet our goal, we will submit the names,” Davis said. “If we don’t, no one will ever know who signed the petition.”

An ancillary issue to the annexation is the proposal facing the Port Orchard City Council, which would elect council members from districts instead of at large.

Since the district division would reflect the population, it would need to be redrawn after the annexation.

The major opposition to this proposal comes from sources who feel the issue should be put to a public vote, but the annexation action has provided another reason to defer the action.

On one hand, districts would prevent a council majority from a single neighborhood, specifically McCormick Woods.

Davis, who favors delaying the action until after the annexation, said he has not heard of any specific McCormick Woods resident who wants to serve. Additionally, the idea that residents would seek to dominate the council is misguided.

“We do not live in a monolithic community,” Davis said. “We have never had anonymous support for any issue. The idea that there is a cabal out here that wants to take over is a straw dog. It is entirely possible that if there were four of us on the council we would be divided on any particular issue.”

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