The petition against a proposed annexation to the city of Lake Stevens Sunday afternoon on Aug 5, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The petition against a proposed annexation to the city of Lake Stevens Sunday afternoon on Aug 5, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Homeowners urge state board to halt Lake Stevens annexation

The fate of 108 disputed acres adjacent to the city is now in the hands of a boundary review panel.

EVERETT — Homeowners on Monday evening asked a state board to reject a proposal that would annex 108 acres into the city of Lake Stevens.

At issue, they said, were concerns about poor communication, dense development and the signatures on the annexation petition. Of 80 signatures, 29 belonged to Lake Stevens Mayor John Spencer. He signed for property owners under provisions of a 2010 homeowners association agreement with an “intent to annex” clause.

Neighbors gathered enough opposing signatures to trigger a hearing before the state Boundary Review Board for Snohomish County. About 50 people filled the meeting at the county campus here on Monday.

The four members of the board plan to reconvene at 5 p.m. Wednesday to deliberate and announce their conclusion. A written decision is to be issued by Oct. 30, followed by an appeal period that ends Nov. 29.

City and county officials told the board that Lake Stevens is the logical provider of services for the area known as the Rhodora annexation, just east of the city.

People who live there use city roads, parks and businesses, Lake Stevens community development director Russ Wright said.

“The city has the resources to provide currently, or in the future to move into providing, those urban levels of services,” he said.

The city intends to annex the rest of its urban growth area and fully encircle its namesake lake. Most of that area is zoned for single-family homes, city planner Josh Machen said. Annexation petitions require signatures from 60 percent of land owners.

During a public hearing last week, the Lake Stevens City Council heard homeowners’ worries. The council reaffirmed its support of the plan.

Long-term, the council wants a single community around the lake, Machen said.

Homeowner Stacy Brewer said the proposal seems to be about building more homes on the area’s last large open parcel.

“They can say whatever they want about one community,” but he doubts they will listen to other voices, he said.

He called the mayor’s signing for homeowners “shady, secretive and highly unusual.”

Neighbors are questioning the annexation of this area southwest of Lake Stevens city boundaries. (City of Lake Stevens)

Neighbors are questioning the annexation of this area southeast of Lake Stevens city boundaries. (City of Lake Stevens)

Attorney Martin Prybylski spoke for the Brookmont HOA, which is subject to the agreement, and believes it was incorrectly interpreted by the city. The passage that grants power to petition on homeowners’ behalf is “couched in language the city chose to ignore,” he said.

It mentions the declarant, which would be the developer that owned and built on the land. Once the lots were sold, control of the HOA switched to homeowners. He argued that when the declarant lost interest in the property, the annexation clause lost its power.

Review board member Mark Beales said that section was poorly written.

“Where’s the declarant?” he asked city officials. “… The wording says ‘the declarant desires.’ The declarant is supposed to be the one making the annexation petition, the way it’s worded.”

The city said the agreement was intended to be in effect in perpetuity. Arguments about the language of the contract are appropriate for a courtroom but are beyond the purview of the board, city attorney Brett Vinson said. The 60 percent requirement was met, and previous Washington court cases have upheld such agreements, he said.

Vincent Brown was one of the homeowners who signed in favor of annexation. At the time, he was told there would not be much growth. He now feels that was a lie.

“Unfortunately, if I hadn’t signed, the mayor would have signed for me,” he said. “But if I could take back my signature, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

One owner, Elizabeth Fenner, wrote in a letter to the board that she is not subject to the HOA agreement but the mayor signed on her behalf. The city said it recently became aware of the claim and would look into it.

Janice Huxford, who owns acreage in the Rhodora area, also serves on the city planning commission. She urged the review board “to speak for those of us who have not had the chance to speak for ourselves during this process.”

There’s an imbalance of homes and economic development in Lake Stevens, she said. She and others noted the traffic on the U.S. 2 trestle and connecting streets.

Board member Alison Sing asked how the city plans to address growth, including transportation needs. Machen, the city planner, said road projects are planned and staff members are aware of problems on the trestle, which require a regional effort to address.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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