Almost 30 people attended the Renton City Council public hearing Monday, Sept. 10 in opposition of a proposed annexation for what is known to the unincorporated King County residents as White Fence Ranch, outside the eastern limit of Renton in the east Renton Highlands. The annexation, called the Parker annexation, would bring a little more than 64 lots, 20.5 acres in size, into Renton city limits.
More than ten people spoke at the public hearing regarding the Parker annexation, expressing frustration, confusion and protest. Many speakers said they were never told about a new petition to annex the neighborhood until signs were posted and mail sent out that 60 percent of the proposed area had signed on. The clerk’s office also received several emails in opposition.
“I think we have a lot of information to digest, a few more questions to have answered before we make a final decision on this,” Council member Ryan McIrvin said at the end of the hearing.
The council decided to continue the public hearing through written correspondence. Those wishing to speak about the proposed annexation can email their correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.
The annexation requires a petition signed by landowners that make up at least 60 percent of the total assessed value of the land. The total assessed value of the area is almost $19 million.
One resident has lived in the proposed annexation area for more than 16 years.
“I love the country feel of my street and living in unincorporated King County. We enjoy lower taxes and less regulations that would change should we become part of the city of Renton,” she said.
She added the city ban on fireworks would also end family traditions on that street.
Renton already provides a number of services to the White Fence Ranch residents, which would not change with annexation. Residents would still be covered by Issaquah School District. Addresses should remain the same, the proponent of the petition said at the hearing.
Many speakers in opposition also said the proponent of annexation was a realtor who owns vacant lots in the area.
“It seems like this annexation only benefits a few people, including the proponent,” Renton resident Rick Dickson said at the hearing. “It could have been done in a more open and honest way which would have made me feel better.”
Adria Krail came to the podium near the end of the hearing to explain the petition.
“Wow, tough crowd. I happen to be the proponent of (the petition,)” she said. “I didn’t do anything sneakily, illegal, everybody has been (informed) of it, and several people spoke (tonight)and they’re not even in the community area.”
Krail said this is a 10-year project that began in 2008 when homeowners had failing septic systems.
She said she was approached by community members who wanted to build there and use city of Renton sewer, since they couldn’t build their own septic within 200 feet of the sewer line.
Several audience members laughed when she said she did this to help people out. Krail paused for a moment to look back at the crowd.
“I’d really appreciate it if everyone would respect her ability to speak here,” Law said.
Krail continued, saying she got the petition of the 60 percent because of resident’s choosing to go onto sewer.
“There are many things that I think are misconstrued,” Krail said at the hearing. “Originally, the annexation was for the whole of White Fence Ranch. Because the time constraints were so strenuous and the community was so large, I sat down with Angie Mathias and Chip (Vincent) and asked ‘Is there a way that we can separate it?’ It was decided we would work on the northern portion first, and then the southern portion.”
Many community members had expressed concern before Krail spoke about why the White Fence Ranch community was being split in this proposed annexation.
“I am neither for nor against this annexation, I am for slowing this down, getting more information, and talking about the problems of this neighborhood I’ve seen since the ’80s,” Ginger Dickson said, her husband Rick Dickson holding up a homemade map of the area. “We are a tight-knit neighborhood, we all take care of each other. This was a crappy thing to do.”
The square boundary is easily incorporated and as of 2013, various Renton city departments reviewed the proposal and said it represented a logical extension of their services and systems, according to city documents.
According to city documents, the “Parker annexation furthers the city’s business plan goals and is in the general welfare and interest of the city.”
Speakers asked for more information on the petition and who signed it.
“The 60 percent direct petition method is probably the most commonly used evaluation method in the state,” senior planner Angie Mathias said at the hearing.
The petition was verified in July 2018 by the King County Assessor as sufficient, according to the certificate of sufficiency. The property owners and land was verified by the assessor as matching the listed owners, but the assessment does not verify if signatures are valid through signature comparison. It also doesn’t verify if the signatures were obtained in an appropriate time frame.
According to a petition code from 2013, any petition signatures older than 6 months old must be stricken from the petition.
Thirty-eight parcels were listed signing for the petition. According to the city document of signatures for the petition, around 31 signatures were from or before 2014, although around 20 of those were resigned in 2018.
Of all 38 parcels signed for, 11 of these signatures were for the same person who owned all 11 lots. The owner has changed but re-signed at least four times.
In 2013, the 60 percent petition was brought to the King County Assessment Department by the city of Renton and determined to be insufficient twice.
There were issues with the names on the forms not matching the accompanying parcels that they signed for, and the value of parcels that signed was only 23 percent of the total assessed value, and needed to be 60 percent.
“It was not sufficient, again. Only 54 percent. Adria is continuing to gather signatures,” Senior Planner Angie Mathias said in an email exchange from the time.
Many speakers said there had also been homeowners who were automatically a yes to the petition due to their sewer system.
Mayor Dennis Law asked Mathias about this, saying he had never heard of this automatic vote, and she explained the covenant to annex process.
When the city of Renton put a sewer in the unincorporated neighborhood in 2007, they offered landowners the ability to switch from their own systems to city of Renton.
Parcel owners also signed a covenant to annexation, which are public documents.
It meant if there was ever a proposal for annexing the area to Renton, their parcel becomes an automatic yes vote by connecting to the sewer system.
Law also asked if there was a way to determine how many people had automatically voted through a covenant to annexation.
“We could probably send in a letter making that inquiry. There are a number of properties within this annexation area that do have covenants on them,” Mathias said.
Andrew Campbell bought a house six years ago in the neighborhood that was already connected to Renton’s sewer system.
At the hearing he said he was concerned that he never had a vote. He said there was no information on his deed, and asked Mathias if it was there.
“It’s a recorded document with King County, but I don’t know if it’s on your title,” Mathias said to Campbell at the hearing.
Campbell said others in the audience had built houses and were told they had to hook up to the sewer system since it was available.
“They can’t realize their dream of owning a property in our community,” he said.
From examining covenant to annexation documents, there have been 34 parcels at White Fence Ranch that have been signed since 2005.
At least six of those were listed in annexation documents as automatic signatures for the petition since 2013, and three owners of those parcels had also physically signed the petition, from cross-comparing documents.