Annexation deserves another look

By Paul Archipley | Dec 01, 2010

The large opposition to annexation (nearly 63 percent) in the Mukilteo advisory vote on Nov. 2 may have sealed the fate of that proposal by city officials. The City Council has postponed further discussion until January.

Opponents did a masterful job with their “Burma Shave”-style ad campaign to raise alarm about the negative impacts of annexation.

Nevertheless, we’d like to suggest the council keep an open mind. Why? The arguments against the proposal were misleading at best and simply wrong otherwise.

Among opponents' arguments:

• Annexation will add 25,000 more cars to the roads.

That's an easy one. Annexation won't add a single car to our streets. They're already there, crossing back and forth over municipal boundaries everyday.

• Home values will decrease.

Although living within certain cities gives some panache to an address (think Mercer Island, Medina, Bellevue), other factors such as neighborhood, schools, views, amenities and the like are far more likely to affect property values. There are beautiful, upscale (and expensive) homes in some of the proposed annexation areas, like Picnic Point. If this argument had any merit, they might want to think twice about changing to a Mukilteo address.

• Annexation will stretch public safety and other municipal services.

Obviously, a larger city would require more staff. Increased revenues will cover those costs (more on that later). But in this era of mutual aid responses and regional service providers, the main difference is where the tax dollars are going. For example, firefighters from Fire District 1 and Lynnwood joined Mukilteo in dousing a Thanksgiving day fire in Old Town.

• Increasing Mukilteo’s population by 50 percent will destroy the small town feeling we now enjoy.

In 1980, when the area between 76th Street SW and 92nd Street SW was annexed, some of the few thousand people living in Mukilteo at that time no doubt worried about losing that “small town feeling.”

In 1991, when Harbour Pointe residents voted to annex into Mukilteo, many of the 6,900 city residents argued against it for the same reason.

At a population of 20,000 today, in a greater suburban area of more than 150,000 and a county of more than 700,000, some residents may feel they still are enjoying a small town lifestyle. We suggest that feeling is based on factors such as schools, churches, clubs, and events like the Lighthouse and Bluegrass festivals, that have nothing to do with population.

One can live in a neighborhood of a few hundred within a city of many thousands and, depending on the cohesion and chemistry of that neighborhood, feel a part of a small community or a stranger in a faceless city.

Notably, those residential areas that would be part of the proposed annexation are full of people whose children go to Mukilteo schools, who go to Mukilteo churches, shop at Mukilteo stores and own Mukilteo businesses. They already are Mukilteans in every way but their address.

• Annexation will increase your taxes.

This may be the most controversial – and misunderstood – argument of all.

Many long-time residents may not be aware that, had Harbour Pointe not voted to annex into the city, Mukilteo might not exist today. Overwhelmingly residential with a tiny commercial and industrial base, it desperately needed new revenues.

Had Harbour Pointe decided to form its own city instead, Mukilteo very likely would have unincorporated, and today would be a part of unincorporated Snohomish County or annexed into Everett.

The problem is, residential areas cost more in services than they bring in property taxes. Commercial and industrial zones are just the opposite.

By annexing those commercial and industrial areas along with the residential neighborhoods in the city’s proposal, Mukilteo would tap into much-needed new revenue. Without them, current city residents can be sure their taxes will go up and/or services will go down.

For city officials to go against the will of more than 60 percent of the voters would be an act of political courage and, in fact, could cost some electeds their job. Even so, it could very well be the right thing to do.

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