Ask Julia Hughes what she thinks about the prospect of the city of Lynnwood annexing her property and she’ll tell you she’s all for it.
So why is Hughes worried, especially at a time when the city is gearing up for November 2009 annexation elections that could bring as many as 27,000 new residents into the city by 2010?
Because her Meadowdale neighborhood west of Highway 99 is not one of the areas city officials say they’re most likely to annex by 2010, if voters in those neighborhoods say ‘yes.’ Instead, it’s been put on the back burner for 2011 or later.
With the city of Mukilteo gearing up to annex unincorporated areas south of Picnic Point to 148th Avenue West, Hughes sees two cities moving closer, but not including, her neighborhood. She’s worried her neighborhood could end up an unincorporated island, just the thing Snohomish County says it wants to avoid.
If annexations go through around her, “then we are in a no-man’s land as far as police is concerned,” she said. “And I don’t want to be there. It’s already difficult to get sheriff’s response. It would be impossible if the sheriff had to drive through incorporated areas to get to my house.”
Hughes said she’s so concerned that she’s planning to ask neighbors nearby to sign a petition, telling the city they want to move to the front of the annexation line.
Hughes is just one of hundreds of county residents who’ve attended a series of 13 special city-sponsored annexation meetings since October. There, city staff have provided non-city residents with information like how much their taxes would go down, fire and police protection, sewer and public works.
Another Meadwdale resident, Providence Cicero, said she was a little concerned about losing her Edmonds address before hearing the city’s presentation. After listening, she says she’d probably be better off as a city resident than not.
“It sounded as though the city plan was less likely to inflict some of the higher-density housing in this area than the county has allowed in the past,” she said.
But not everyone who’s been to those meetings is as excited about being annexed as are Hughes and Cicero.
“I don’t really like being part of the city at all,” said Linda O’Connell, a 36-year resident of unincorporated Lynnwood about 1 mile east of Circuit City. “I’ve never been a city-type person.”
Oh, sure, O’Connell says, she’s heard city officials say that overall, city taxes are lower than county taxes. She’s not buying it.
“I talked to a friend of mine,” she said. “She was part of the unincorporated area and was annexed into Edmonds and her taxes went up.”
She says she’s not concerned about county budget cuts and the potential for decreased services such as fire and police.
“They always seem to come when you need them,” she said of sheriff’s deputies.
“And as far as the fire department, they’re right up the hill, like no more than a mile from where I live.”
Mike Rial, a resident of unincorporated Bothell, said he was impressed by the city’s presentation but is still worried. He lives in the farthest northwest corner of Bothell, right next to unincorporated Lynnwood.
“What we fear most is taxes,” he said. “And user fees.”
He said he likes that Bothell is “kind of a suburban town,” and contrasts it with Lynnwood, which he says has become more urban, like “a city of Seattle, with all their fees and taxes and things like that.”
Rial said he has another concern, too: the zip code.
“The other fear is the stigma of having Lynnwood as a city you’re under as far as selling your home,” he said. “It’s not as appealing as Bothell. People are worried about what that would do to house values.”
Maria Naert, who lives in the urban growth area just east of city limits, said she’s in favor of annexation. Junk cars are a problem in her neighborhood, she said. And it can take “forever” for sheriff’s deputies to show up.
“I would like to live in a well-maintained neighborhood because all these habits contributed to graffiti and crime,” said Naert, who’s lived with her husband Albert in unincorporated Lynnwood for decades.
The city, she said, “has code enforcement; they have certain things you can and cannot do.”