By SVERRE BAKKE
Annexation again topped the agenda of the White Salmon City Council, which had only a minor quorum of councilors present for its first meeting in October.
Luckily for proponents of the city’s annexation of the Los Altos and White Salmon Estates neighborhoods, councilors George Rau, Allan Wolf, and Bill Werst were in agreement when it came time to cast votes last Wednesday. The councilors found the Notice of Intent to Annexation submitted by proponents met all the legal requirements for acceptance.
In accepting the Notice of Petition for Annexation, the City Council started a 60-day period in which to study the proposal in detail and come to a decision on whether it is in the city’s best interest to proceed to the next step in the process: collection of petition signatures from the owners of 60 percent of the subject areas’ assessed property valuation. These signatures, in turn, must be validated by the County Auditor’s Office before the matter can come before the City Council for a decision.
Noted City Attorney Ken Wood-rich, “Nothing great is happening at this point except to say the petitioners have met the threshold requirements for beginning the process.”
The Los Altos and White Salmon Estates neighborhoods — as described in the Notice of Intent to Annexation — encompasses 86.64 acres of mostly residentially developed land. The city, according to its land use ordinance, requires use of the petition method for all annexation proposals. Last month the council accepted a Notice of Intent to Annexation from the Six S Company for 63.83 acres of land that lie west of the city’s western boundary and that straddle NW Lincoln Street. The city also is considering a Notice of Intent to Annexation filed by Dry Creek Ranch, LLC, for 53.22 acres on the city’s eastern border.
During discussion of the motion to accept the Los Altos/White Salmon Estates Notice of Intent, Werst said the city’s position on the annexation ought to be nonpartisan, with the goal of creating a win-win situation for the city and annexation proponents. Moreover, he said he does not think city officials are or should be actively promoting the annexation as a matter of protocol.
Audience member Kevin Herman objected to Werst’s second statement – much to Werst’s irritation – and said Mayor David Poucher had promoted the proposed annexation to him during a recent encounter.
Poucher responded to Herman, saying, “I do support (those areas) coming in, but we don’t have an official position as a city.” He also noted that “I don’t have a vote” in the matter.
Werst regained the floor and said, “I’m not promoting (the annexation) or talking it down. There’s not going to be some hostile takeover if someone doesn’t want to come in. It’s up to the people.”
Rau indicated that he, too, would remain neutral on the annexation. He also wondered out loud about what happened in 2006 to give the City Council pause when annexation of the Los Altos neighborhood was first proposed. This time around, he noted, the city is following through with its investigation. “We’re trying to find out what the people think [about the proposed annexation],” he said.