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PO mayor wants to annex it all now

Annexing Port Orchard to the boundaries of the Urban Growth Area (UGA) would turn the city into Kitsap’s largest. - Kitsap County
Annexing Port Orchard to the boundaries of the Urban Growth Area (UGA) would turn the city into Kitsap’s largest.
— image credit: Kitsap County

Port Orchard has, up to this point, followed a fairly deliberate growth pattern, annexing small pieces of property with the eventual goal of filling its entire urban growth area (UGA). But a proposal from Mayor Lary Coppola suggests annexing the entire UGA in one action, leading to an era of immediate, considerable growth.

“The normal way to annex land into a city is with concentric circles a little bit at a time,” Coppola said. “This way we can do it all at once, with one election, and save the taxpayers a lot of money. And at the same time we become the ‘big dog’ — the largest city in the county.”

A sudden growth — going from 1,500 acres and 8,000 people to 7,200 acres and an estimated 30,000 people — would require planning and coordination, in addition to the money for services.

And while finances will need close examination, Coppola feels an agreement between the city and the county to get immediate access to tax revenues will offset the cost.

“As a big city, we will have access to a lot of federal and state funds,” he said. “We can use for dealing with the kinds of issues we’ll have to face with an annexation of this magnitude.”

During standard annexations, the change in allocation of tax funds from the county to the city is gradual, over a period of three years.

This is intended to ease the transfer of services. If the county has made a commitment to fix a certain road it will fill that obligation, but will need money to do so.

Under Coppola’s plan, the city would get the money immediately but would also assume responsibility for completing the projects.

The county, in the face of its own declining revenues, welcomes the idea.

Even if it will receive a smaller share of the tax total, it would also divest itself of the responsibility to maintain that area.

“We would lose a substantial portion of tax revenue through an annexation, but it would be great if it corresponded to what we had to spend to maintain the area,” said Kitsap County Special Projects Director Eric Baker.

Even outside that perfect world, Baker said the county would not oppose the action.

“The idea is for all cities to annex their UGAs by 2025,” Baker said. “Doing it all at once could be a good thing. We may have to stagger services, agree to maintain certain roads or police certain areas up to a specific date, rather than trying to change all at once.”

Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend said a large annexation would require a sharp increase in law enforcement abilities, potentially increasing the size of the 20-person force four-fold.

“We would have to plan carefully about how to provide police services,” Townsend said. “There are some areas in the UGA that will require increased patrols, but this will be offset by other areas that will not.”

Townsend said a comfortable service ratio would be 1.8 patrol officers for every 1,000 people.

He favors the action in light of recent retail annexation because, “It only makes sense that if you are annexing the commercial districts that provide the revenue that you at least offer the citizens surrounding that area an opportunity to join with the city.”

Coppola presented the annexation idea at the end of Tuesday night’s study session as a way to start a dialogue rather than to develop an immediate plan.

Still, he calls the idea “a win-win” because the city doesn’t lose anything by floating the idea.

Coppola predicts the election would cost the city around $30,000 if it is held in conjunction with other elections.

He said that the required preparation makes it likely that the election could take place in 2010 or early 2011.

City Attorney Greg Jacoby said that annexation votes require 60 percent voter support for approval, from an electorate that is at least 40 percent of the vote in the last election. For example, if 1,000 voters cast ballots last year, this election would require 400 votes be cast in an election and 240 to approve the action.

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