EDITOR’S NOTE: Discussions on Fairwood annexation critical to future

Renton is going to become a much different city than it is today – if Fairwood residents decide to annex to the city.

That’s why the discussions the Renton City Council is going to have over the next couple weeks are so critical to the city’s future.

Starting Monday, the council will take up a resolution from Mayor Denis Law calling for an election next August so that Fairwood voters can decide whether to annex this almost-city of 25,000 people.

Not quite as far along as Fairwood, but still looming, is the potential annexation of Skyway/West Hill. Much more so than Fairwood, the annexation of Skyway/West Hill comes with great costs.

Annexation of Fairwood has been a possibility for years. It’s one of Renton’s potential annexation areas. So is Skyway/West Hill. That means if either of those unincorporated areas is going to any city, it’s Renton.

In Fairwood’s case, annexation had to wait until incorporation had its chance. Cityhood failed twice, the last time Nov. 3. Now, the City Council has precious little time to act on moving Fairwood annexation forward. In order to obtain up to $2.2 million in credit against the state sales tax to help with transition costs, the council must initiate an annexation process by year’s end.

Luckily, the city understands Fairwood pretty well, through formal studies and a general sense of neighborliness. It had to repeatedly step up in a factual way to explain city services to Fairwood residents during the incorporation debate.

The resolution before the City Council merges two annexation proposals – one just for Fairwood’s commercial core (Red Mill) and the other for the entire Fairwood area. It would be unconscionable to just annex the sales-tax-generating business district. That would play into the hands of incorporation supporters who tried to portray Renton as a municipal Scrooge.

Politically and realistically, that’s not going to happen anyway.

So what would Fairwood mean to the City of Renton? It really is unlike any neighborhood in Renton.

Fairwood feels like a city; it’s not Renton’s outpost. It will make its political will known, with a distinct shift southeastward of the political base in Renton.

The incorporation activists have already put the City Council on notice they are going to be watching the city’s business very closely. If the city thought it had its hands full with the Highlands Community Association, just wait until Fairwood comes on board.

Then there’s Skyway/West Hill, just minutes from downtown Renton, with its sweeping views of nearly the entire city. As the crow flies over downtown, it’s more Renton than, say, Benson Hill.

The county has left Fairwood in pretty good shape; not so Skyway/West Hill. Gone is a county program to spend millions to spruce up its unincorporated urban areas to entice suitors to annex them. But the potential for financial partnerships still exists.

When Skyway annexes, Renton’s transformation will become complete, although there are still other smaller annexations down the road. If the numbers hold up, Renton would become the second-largest city in King County.

Now that’s the way to exert local control and have a seat at the regional table.

Comment on Fairwood

To e-mail a comment to the Renton City Council about Fairwood annexation, go to rentonwa.gov and click on Council under the Government header. The City Council will discuss the Fairwood annexation when it meets as the Committee of the Whole at 5 p.m. Monday (Dec. 7) in its chambers, seventh floor, City Hall, 1055 S. Grady Way.

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