Klahanie annexation vote pits Issaquah against Sammamish
Tuesday’s special election could finally settle whether Issaquah or Sammamish will annex the Klahanie area.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A yearslong tug of war between Sammamish and Issaquah over the affluent Klahanie area could end this week.
Tuesday is the last day Klahanie residents can send in special-election ballots that give them the option to vote “yes” on joining Issaquah.
A group of Klahanie residents spent more than two years organizing the annexation effort that included an Issaquah-commissioned study. The study indicated a financial win-win for the city and the neighborhood of more than 10,000 residents that has, according to the latest census data, a median household income of about $112,000.
Issaquah, a growing city that hopes one day to have light-rail service, would eventually be able to increase its budget with tax revenue from the neighborhood, while an owner of a home assessed at $320,000 would pay about $380 less in taxes and fees annually than he or she now pays to King County.
But over the past year, a group called Klahanie Choice and politicians representing Sammamish launched an increasingly intense and determined effort to stop the annexation, hoping the area eventually joins the younger city instead.
Klahanie Choice mailers stating “this election will impact us ALL forever” were funded by a campaign budget more than four times as large as the pro-Issaquah annexation group’s. The difference in their budgets is mostly due to a $10,000 donation from the King County Police Officers’ Guild to Klahanie Choice.
Among the things Klahanie Choice says Sammamish can offer is better police response time by the King County Sheriff’s Office, which has a contract with Sammamish to provide law enforcement. It also emphasizes Klahanie is mostly bordered by Sammamish, which, unlike Issaquah, has no bonded debt.
“We don’t want them because we need them to help pay for anything. We want them because they fit into our community,” said Sammamish Mayor Tom Vance. “They’re right across the street. Our police are already patrolling 3.5 miles of their perimeter.”
To show how much Sammamish wants to annex the area, Vance and Sammamish City Councilmember Don Gerend testified at a hearing last week for a state bill that could have prevented millions in sales-tax credits from going to Issaquah or Sammamish should either annex Klahanie.
State Sen. Andy Hill, who represents part of Sammamish, has since said the bill — which met immediate resistance — “will not be moving forward at this point.”
Sammamish council members have said they would take the lead on repairs to Issaquah Pine Lake Road Southeast and Southeast Issaquah-Fall City Road that could cost millions. King County and Issaquah have not said they would make those repairs an immediate priority.
Taxes and fees still would be lower for each household than if they stayed in unincorporated King County, but no one has calculated by exactly how much.
That lack of study is what bothers Michael Foss, vice president of the Brookshire Estates-Issaquah Homeowners Association. Foss, who lives within the annexation area, spent about two years helping organize an effort to join Issaquah that included conducting studies and gathering feedback from Klahanie and Issaquah residents.
“If this were to fail and [Sammamish leaders are] smart, they would do their own study,” Foss said. But he noted Klahanie could still choose no.
“The only real guarantee that we get into a city right now is if this vote to be annexed to Issaquah passes,” he said.
Last month the Sammamish City Council unanimously passed a resolution that would fast-track Klahanie’s annexation to Sammamish, should Issaquah forfeit its legal right to annex the area under the King County Comprehensive Plan.
Vance said Sammamish has been trying to find legal avenues to annex Klahanie for more than a decade and is hopeful that if residents vote no, Issaquah would allow Sammamish to begin an annexation process of its own as soon as possible.
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.