Northwest NEWS

March 29, 1999

Local News

City considers conditions for street annexations

by Marshall Haley

   WOODINVILLE--Council and staff have begun looking at requirements for determining which of Woodinville's 52 private streets would qualify for annexation by the city.

   In order to be considered for annexation, streets must have enough sub-base and pavement thickness to allow the passage of heavy construction vehicles and school buses without causing damage to the road surface. Storm drainage systems are required for all city streets.

   Property owners on private streets must agree to the dedicated right of way (street width) prescribed by the city, which might infringe on private landscaping or other parts of their lands that may be lost for personal use.

   "Many private streets are too narrow to accomodate emergency vehicles and aren't good prospects for annexation. For example, if a moving van is parked on a street less than 20 feet wide, no emergency vehicles could get by," Director of Public Works, Mick Monken, said. "Thirty feet is the minimum right of way width for most streets. The smallest width we can allow is about 26 feet for a street with topographical problems, such as a steep bank on one side. For owners on many private, narrow streets, the cost of expanding and upgrading to city standards would be prohibitive."

   As a condition of annexation, the city might require petitioners to form a Local Improvement District (LID), under which property owners would agree to pay for improving their street to meet city standards. Otherwise, liability (potential costs to the city) from frequent chuck hole and broken edge repairs, or personal injury accidents caused by them, could prove prohibitive, City Attorney Wayne Tanaka said.

   LIDs are formed by the city assessing all properties on a street, getting agreements from a majority of property owners and bidding construction costs, Monken said. To block the city's requirement of an LID, 60 percent of assessed owners on a street must petition the city, said Tanaka.

   If street residents choose to form an LID, the city would secure a low-interest loan for the initial upgrade, then recover the costs from all affected deed holders over a prescribed period. The city would pay for all maintenance subsequent to the initial street improvements.

   According to Monken, streets with less than three houses automatically qualify as private streets, but that residents of many unpaved, or privately paved, streets with more than three houses can choose to remain private.

   The Council agreed with Mayor Don Brocha that "taking on gravel roads, even with more than seven houses, or paved streets in isolated, low-density areas of the city, would be a lot for the city to take on," unless streets were obvious candidates as future "connectors," minor arterials that have houses but carry traffic from many other "feeder" streets.