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City undeterred by high court ruling

Federal Way city officials are still gathering information from the city’s potential annexation area despite a recent state Supreme Court decision that eliminates the method the city would have used to annex the area.

The inventory project will determine what infrastructure and services Federal Way would need to provide for the area if its residents one day vote to become city residents.

City officials have said the city has no current interest in annexing the 5,000-acre area, at least not yet, but they’re gathering the information for future use.

The Supreme Court decided last month in lawsuits involving the cities of Yakima and Moses Lake that the 60 percent petition method of annexation — the method the majority of Washington cities use to annex unincorporated areas into city limits — is unconstitutional because it gives an unfair advantage to owners of high-value property.

The court ruled the method unconstitutional because, potentially, a property owner who owns 60 percent of the property values in an annexation area could solely approve an annexation — even if no one else in the area wanted to annex.

Federal Way and other cities are waiting to see how the court reacts to a motion to reconsider filed by the cities of Yakima and Moses Lake. If the court declines to reconsider, cities might pursue a legislative remedy or a constitutional amendment to preserve the 60 percent petition method.

“We’re trying to work through our lobbyist, the Association of Washington Cities and other city attorneys to determine the next steps,” said Federal Way assistant city manager Derek Matheson.

With the elimination of the 60 percent petition method, there are two remaining options that would work best for Federal Way’s potential annexation area.

One is the election method, initiated by 10 percent petition. Under that method, a petition to initiate the annexation process must have signatures from the number of residents equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in that area in the last general election.

If the petitioner gathers that number of signatures, the annexation process would begin and the city would pay to run an election. Residents of the potential annexation area would then vote to determine whether to annex.

The other method, the election method initiated by resolution, is initiated by a City Council resolution. Even still, residents living in the area vote to decide whether to annex.

City officials began looking into the potential annexation area –– from South 272nd Street to the Pierce County line, with an eastern border along 51st Avenue South, Peasley Canyon Road and the West Valley Highway –– after several people who live in it asked when they might become residents of Federal Way. Some of the residents have said they’re dissatisfied with the levels of service King County provides.

If the area is annexed into Federal Way, the city would be responsible for streets and parks maintenance, police and fire service and school buses, among other things.

Other residents in the potential annexation area have said they oppose becoming part of Federal Way.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com.

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