It's a buzzword around town these days and you can find LOTS of info on the city's website. Kirkland is considering whether to annex the neighborhoods of Finn Hill, Upper Juanita and Kingsgate which are all part of unincorporated King County today. This means that those areas would essentially become part of Kirkland, almost doubling our population to 81,000. That's a tremendous change for our cozy little eastside paradise!
This might be a fabulous solution for the people of the 'Proposed Annexation Area' (the "PAA"). Currently it takes an unbearable amount of time to get a police officer or fire truck to respond to them b/c they rely on King County services. And maybe they'd appreciate some local government representation too. I'm sure it wouldn't hurt their home values to be considered part of Kirkland either (many already have Kirkland addresses). It's mostly upside for the PAA, except for maybe some that may prefer feeling more rural, or might feel more locally connected to Bothell or Woodinville or wherever is nearest to them. And then there's a handful that fear higher taxes. But mostly they're psyched for some good service.
What isn't clear to me is why this would benefit Kirkland or the people of Kirkland? Our small town would suddenly rival the size of Kent. Throw in another 30,000 people and we're Bellevue. That means big expenses to expand our police/fire services/city hall/sidewalks/sewers/garbage/etc. There is a proposed new 75 bed jail in the plan, but mysteriously no one seems to know where that would be located. The state offers a kickback type incentive to make annexation more feasible, but that's only for ten years. Then what? The financial picture is troublesome. Unfortunately, the 'PAA' is primarily residential and doesn't have many revenue producing/ economic development opportunities to offer up as an offset to the expenses it would create for our city. And most importantly, the small town feel of Kirkland is what makes it so charming.
Here's the kicker: Kirkland residents DO NOT get to vote on this issue. Only the people living in the proposed annexation area do (seriously!). Our City Council members need to know how we feel because this process is running like a freight train already. The city folks are surely salivating at their impending promotions that come along with managing a bigger city. I was at a neighborhood association meeting a few months back where a "city consultant" came and spoke about annexation and documented all of our questions/concerns. There were 14 sheets of paper filled with ink around the room. At the very end, a resident raised his hand and said, 'would you like to know what we think?' And the answer was: "NO". Then some fodder about how it was the wrong time in the process for that. Since then, we are on to 'phase two' and city council members just keep nodding their heads along-the process will just keep going until it happens unless we give them a reason to reconsider.
So, here's what you do. If you support annexation, you can kick your feet back up with that glass of wine you're drinking- this thing is on auto pilot anyway. If you'd like to preserve Kirkland as the community it is today you need act swiftly. Contact your local city council members to let them know how you feel. There's also a particularly passionate Kirklander named Rob Butcher that has put together a website where you can sign an on-line petition and offer your help at www.savekirkland.com . If you're on the fence and want more info, you can use this link through the city's website. ~Janis