June 19, 2000
"Welcome to Woodinville: Country Living, City-Style," the sign greets visitors when pulling off SR-522 into the city. Here, in and around Woodinville, the country person still enjoys a view of horses grazing in meadows dotted with buttercups. And for the city-slicker, there's a twelve-theater Cineplex, several Starbuck's, and a Metro bus route right through downtown. Is this not heaven? So what's the problem?
Country-Living and City-Style don't always see eye to eye, which became apparent at the June 12th Woodinville City Council meeting. City-Style wants growth, change, and a community where everyone participates and pays their fair share. Country-Living wants a rural life where families share neighborhood potlucks and everyone knows everyone. They want safe neighborhoods where the children play together and neighbors watch each others' houses when on vacation. They're worried this could change.
The two opposing views clashed when Ahmad Amiri, a resident of a small neighborhood in unincorporated Woodinville, sent a notice of intent to petition for annexation to the City of Woodinville. Amiri is an associate real estate broker and is originally from Abadan, Iran.
"Abadan was a very nice city, a wealthy, diverse town," Amiri said. But Amiri adds that the city was completely destroyed by Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein. This is why Amiri, who has lived in the United States for thirty years and is now a citizen, feels strongly about the city of Woodinville. "I want to be a part of the community and be a part of the system and have something to say," he said.
And in order to be a part of the system and have his say, Amiri needs to be a part of the city. So he decided to start the process with a petition. And some of his neighbors agreed with him and joined in the effort.
However, others stated their disapproval. When the City placed the proposal on their agenda for discussion, twelve families appeared at the meeting with ten of those families there to state their protest against the proposal known as the Heck-Stafford Annexation.
The proposed annexed site is located south of NE 171st Street between 140th Avenue NE and 143rd Ave. NE, adjacent to the Woodinville Medical Center. The proposed annexation area includes 22 residential parcels for a total of approximately 9 plus-or-minus acres within the City's Urban Growth Boundary.
Dirk Swearingen has lived in the proposed annexed area since 1970 and he likes things just the way they are. He bought the model home when the neighborhood was first built. "Three of us are original owners," he said. "It's been a really nice neighborhood."
The concern for Swearingen is that growth doesn't necessarily mean a better life. He says that more condominiums are inevitable with underdeveloped land and existing zoning changed to allow 12 units per acre from the three units per acre in the neighborhood. "There's only one way to go and that's up," Swearingen said, emphasizing that he didn't see any benefits to being a part of the city, but he did see the drawbacks. "You can't tell us it will be free. It's another large expense to be a part of the city."
At the June 12th meeting, members of ten families stood up to speak against the proposal when it was time for public comment. Speaking in favor of the proposal were Amiri and one of his neighbors. Amiri's neighbor stated, "People protesting the petition enjoy Woodinville's amenities, but they don't want to pay for it. I love the fact my kids will be going to Woodinville High. I will pay my fair share."
But others stood up and asked the Council to withdraw their signatures from the petition, explaining they hadn't fully understood when they signed. One commented, "We don't want things to change. We like it the way it is." Another said, "I can't think of a thing I'll gain by being a part of the city."
A 14-year resident expressed the views of many of the protesters. He said the idea of annexation scared him because it's inevitable in the future that taxes will go up. "We pay enough, all of us. We pay when we earn it, we pay when we spend it. We pay, pay, pay," he said.
However, Ahmad Amiri said, "I think if you use something, you should pay for it." He says he was assured by the city that the taxes wouldn't change and has a letter citing this assurance. He says he never wanted to take advantage of his neighbors. "I love my neighbors and I respect their hearts and minds."
But he's improving his house and prefers to go to Woodinville and contribute to the city instead of the county. He also said that his father, who was a landowner, was a person who wanted to be left alone and he understands how some of his neighbors feel. "But that is not what our world is all about," Amiri said. "We are growing and it takes lots of effort to improve our community."
After everyone had spoken, the Woodinville City Council decided the petition process needed to run its course and voted to allow it to continue. "I think the City believes in the process and we should allow the process to work," Councilmember Scott Hageman said. "One of the principles of democracy is that the majority decides," he added. "I want the opportunity for that to play out."
Hageman mentioned that before Woodinville was incorporated into a city, a landfill and a jail had been in the works and targeted for the Woodinville area. He pointed out that a lot of momentum to incorporate began after these plans were made known to the community.
Woodinville, once a country crossroads, was incorporated in 1993. And though Hageman agrees that city revenues pay for maintenance and upgrades, he says Woodinville's parks and other amenities are paid for in a lot of different ways, such as bonds, grants, etc.
But for now, a solution that helps all parties, for or against annexation, is Councilmember Hageman's concern. "Let's see if the neighbors can get together to work out a win-win for both sides."