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City may pass on annexation

Three new chunks of land have been offered to Federal Way as additional annexation property, but city officials aren’t sure they want to commit the time and money to study them.

City staff told the Land Use and Transportation Committee that parts of the three areas being offered — Browns Point, a piece of Northeast Tacoma and an area near the town of Pacific — are rough, steep and difficult to service.

“You might call it unclaimed area,” said Rox Burhans, associate planner in Federal Way’s Community Services Department. “Getting fire service to some areas is not possible. It’s a rough topography.”

In fact, Pacific officials have no intention of annexing their urban growth area, especially after citizens living in the unincorporated area filled two community meetings to oppose annexation.

Pacific community development director Ed Davis said the city decided against annexation because the boundary between Pacific and Federal Way runs through Spider Lake and divides the Trout Lake drainage basin.

“You don’t annex through a drainage area,” he said. “If you’ve only got the south side of the lake in your city, what do you do?”

Federal Way’s potential annexation area runs east of Interstate 5 from South 272nd Street to the Pierce County line. If citizens living in the area vote to annex, Federal Way would be responsible for maintaining roads and parks and providing fire and police service.

City staff launched a study of the potential annexation area in 2000 to gather an inventory of existing infrastructure and services and to determine what the city would need to provide to bring the area up to city standards.

Some residents living in the area have said, like Pacific’s urban growth-area residents, that they have no interest in becoming part of the city. They like the rural character of their properties, they’ve said, and don’t want urban encroachment to ruin it.

Others have said King County’s drive to divest itself of unincorporated land has resulted in a lower tax base for the county and, consequently, poor road maintenance and services. Camelot Park, located in Federal Way’s potential annexation area, won’t open this year because of county budget cuts.

City land-use committee members balked at the estimated cost of adding the three proposed areas to Federal Way’s current study. Officials estimate including the new portions could run about $100,000, or 42 percent of the $240,000 budget, and would add four or five months to the timeline.

The committee asked city staff to explore just one of the areas –– Dash Point –– and agreed to discuss the issue later, perhaps closer to budget time.

“A hundred thousand dollars is a big chunk of the budget, especially considering every level of government is making cuts,” said City Councilman Mike Park.

He suggested the committee forget about it, considering the roads would be difficult to maintain and the areas are isolated. But Councilman Eric Faison, chairman of the committee, said there might be some value in taking a look at the areas.

“I would recommend studying, it at least,” he said. “We don’t have to make all the improvements right away.”

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