Lively Chamber debate on annexation

  • Written by Don Mann
Staff photo/Don Mann Lucy DeYoung, right, and Mike Tanksley took turns discussing the pros and cons of annexation during a public discussion at Willows Lodge on Thursday.
To annex or not to annex. That was the question at Willows Lodge Thursday during a debate-styled discussion sponsored by the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce.

It featured Lucy DeYoung and Mike Tanksley, who have opposing views on whether some specific plots on the east side of the Sammamish Valley should be annexed by the city, and was moderated by Chamber Executive Director David Witt.

Several dozen Chamber members and guests were in attendance, including Woodinville Mayor Bernie Talmas and Councilmember Paulette Bauman, who, incidentally, were opposed on the issue in a recent city council vote.

Before making her opening statement, former mayor DeYoung issued a disclaimer stating she was not representing the city of Woodinville but was an advocate for the property owners who have expressed interest.

She then proceeded with an overview accompanied by a slide show: In 1990 the Growth Management Act (GMA) was passed by the state Legislature, creating an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) within which urban development would take place. The county’s Agricultural Production District (APD) is a block of contiguous farmlands where agriculture is protected and promoted. Any land removed from the district must be urban in character, DeYoung said, and replaced by similar contiguous farmlands.

The total acreage of the north Sammamish Valley is 282 acres, she said, while the proposed annex totals  27 acres, or about 10 percent of the land.

Tanksley, an airline pilot who moved with his family to unincorporated Woodinville eight years ago, spoke as an advocate for the protection of farmlands. “The key to our discussion today is to understand that for a city to have property within the urban side of the UGB — for Woodinville to annex these properties — King County needs to move the UGB to incorporate these current rural properties on the urban side.  So the question is will the county agree to move the boundary or not.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine has officially recommended against annexation, though the  decision will ultimately be made by the county council.

Tanksley spoke about the future character of the community and the distinction between the definition of urban and rural, lines that will be blurred if annexation occurs.

“The question I would ask ... is where we are going from here,” he said, noting he settled on relocating to Woodinville because of its rural character “that didn’t get this way by mistake.” He urged that development necessary to meet GMA requirements be limited to the city’s downtown core, in order to protect the values “that make this such a good place to live.” He spoke of the legacy left by the locals that came before and warned of urban sprawl inevitably created by annexation.

“This is the formula that creates the march of sprawl,” he said. “It would wipe out the farms and create the sprawl we want to avoid.”

In rebuttal DeYoung reminded the audience that the proposed annex was requested by the property owners, and stuck to her guns — aided by self-selected photos — that the properties were “urban-looking in character.” She spoke of her vision of tying in the wineries to agri- tourism, and the idea of putting in a moderately-priced hotel on one of the annexed properties which would benefit farmers including those at nearby 21 Acres.

Tanksley politely noted the photos presented were chosen to improve her speaking points, and oppose his. He continued to beat the drum against urban sprawl. “The city has been working hard the last two years to change its downtown core and essentially Woodinville is a bunch of different strip malls. It’s low density but they have a vision to develop more density and that’s great. But nothing will happen unless the investment community comes in and says it will invest and make it happen.”

He warned of allowing piecemeal changes in zoning, noting that farmers would sell off their land for top dollar, leading to more strip malls.

“Woodinville has not run out of room,” he said, noting existing boundaries and a downtown plan in the works to meet GMA goals. “Many other parts are underdeveloped including the downtown where there’s plenty of room to meet the needs of hotels.” He recommended holding the growth boundaries tight “so investment goes into the right places. The room to grow exists inside the city. We need to protect the ambiance that brought us here in the first place. Pretty pictures are not worth the paper they’re written on.”

DeYoung countered with her opinion that annexation would be beneficial for local merchants. “We’re talking about two relatively small areas in the entire valley,” she said. “The idea that the city will march down the valley (with development) I think is a red-herring. We’re talking about 30 acres that is urban in character, not rural in character. We’re looking at fine-tuning some areas, not wholesale changes to the ag lands. We’re trying to come up with a way of making them better for our community and better for the farmers. We’re not trying to destroy the ag lands; we’re trying to promote the ag lands.”

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