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City says ‘no’ to outside utilities

Poulsbo — A change in the way cities can annex land means Poulsbo is changing the way it extends utilities.

Earlier this year, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the petition method of annexation — the most popular choice among cities — was unconstitutional. That method allowed a city to annex an area by having property owners, representing at least 60 percent of the acreage, sign a petition. However, the court ruled the method was

unconstitutional because it valued property owners of large acreage above those of smaller acreage or non-land owners.

Prior to the ruling, cities could enter into agreements with land owners and begin providing utilities to the area in return for the promise that residents would eventually sign an annexation petition.

The court decision is in the appeals process but in the near future at least ,cities are left basically with the less-effective election method of annexation as its primary tool. The system allows all registered voters in an annexation area to cast ballots on the issue and has left many cities in a quandary over extending utilities anywhere outside of their boundaries.

The municipalities’ conflict stems from the fact that they are no longer guaranteed that residents receiving such infrastructure extensions will annex into the city serving them.

With this in mind, the city council Wednesday passed an ordinance against the further extension of utility services outside the city limits. Earlier this month, council members had agreed that until cities are given more clarification on the issue, they did not support further utility extensions to residents and businesses outside Poulsbo.

However, the council did agree to three exceptions to the moratorium. Extension of water services will be allowed if the current water source is unsafe for residential use and cannot be repaired or replaced by another method; sewer extensions will be allowed where local health officials have determined that the current septic system has failed and cannot be repaired or replaced by another method; and both will be allowed for a public facility.

Public Works Supt. Bill Duffy said the extension to public facilities would likely be used in the near future by the city and local Little League groups, which have been working together to design new Snider Park ballfields. The fields are located outside the city limits.

“If we passed this without that we would not be allowed to provide water to them,” Duffy explained.

The ordinance also stipulates that any exceptions must be approved by the city council before they are allowed to proceed.

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