Annexation conversation a good one for Poulsbo

POULSBO — It was a chicken-and-egg kind of conversation Wednesday night as Poulsbo’s City Council took on the task of annexation policies. And it was a debate of Urban Growth Area proportions, literally, as council members asked themselves the timeless question: Which comes first, the annexation or the infrastructure?

The discussion, which ultimately resulted in the council sending a proposed annexation policy back to city staff for more tweaking and detail, revolved around whether or not the city can drive development without burdening current taxpayers, and if growth can pay for growth without the city playing infrastructure and service support catch up.

Can it? Council members sure hope so.

And while the questions beg much-needed answers, the council also took on the nature of annexation itself, and what it means for the city and its taxpaying residents.

With roughly 65 percent of the city’s 1,200 acres of UGA — land set aside in conjunction with Kitsap County to ultimately be brought into the city limits — already annexed, most large areas have gone through the system. But several smaller parcels and the Johnson Creek Watershed have yet to be included.

When the topic of annexation arises, development often takes center stage, but the real issue is jurisdiction, said Councilman Dale Rudolph.

“I think we have a development problem, and I think we’re going to try to use annexation to help the development problem,” he said. “This is a jurisdiction issue. Annexation is not about development, it’s jurisdiction.”

Rudolph recommended the council separate the two issues, annexing first, then approaching the topic of development once the land is within the city’s boundaries. Having finalized comprehensive plans that can layout regulations for developers should allow the city to maintain some direction on building. So if UGA land coincides with the city’s comprehensive strategies and concurs a 60 percent resident annexation approval consensus, that should provide an annexation worthy of legislative approval.

Because the city’s comprehensive planning, which will be completed in 2008, encompasses a 20- year growth outlay, the city also broached the subject of certain annexed areas not immediately being able to receive city services, which plays into the question of whether or not it should be included within Poulsbo’s boundaries before amenities including police, fire, schools, utilities, storm water, solid waste, sewer and parks and recreation can be provided.

Councilwoman Kim Crowder made the point that if developers move onto annexed land where city sewer facilities aren’t yet available, they’ll turn to the use of pump stations, which have a tendency to fail, cost the city for electricity and can hurt environmental surroundings.

Surprising developers by putting new neighborhoods on notice for those services is also something that should be avoided, Councilwoman Connie Lord said.

City Planner Barry Berezowsky said the dilemma the city faces is how to require developers to meet the city’s long-term comprehensive needs. Despite the healthy discussion, no perfect answer seemed to be found, but the council did give the go-ahead for continued work on the annexation policy, which they felt just needed “more clarity and definition.”

The city’s comprehensive sanitary sewer plan, a part of the planning work that shared the spotlight of the night with development and annexation, can be accessed online by clicking on the Planning and Building tab under Departments at

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