The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly got an earful Monday night from some residents of Forest Park who are not part of the Forest Park Service Area. Yet.
The Assembly voted 4 to 1 to let a plan move forward that, if successful, will mean those homes will be annexed.
Nobody wants to pay more taxes, and that’s what annexation would mean to the seven property owners on the list.
Michelle Lampton said the whole issue began with one property at the top of the road that wasn’t in the service area.
“And that is the property that started the snowball effect in which our parcels were added, because as soon as this issue came up, people started looking into whether or not there are any other parcels whose access is just through Forest Park,” she said.
Road maintenance is the primary reason for the annexation. The service area pays about $40,000 a year for snow removal alone. Add in street lights and regular repairs, and the costs approach $70,000 annually.
Six of the seven parcels are clustered near the bottom of Forest Park Drive. Lampton and some of the others argue that their use of the road is minimal, and they shouldn’t have to pay the service area’s 2.2 mill rate.
“I’m using less than 2 percent,” she said. “If you look at the parcel that’s on the corner, she’s technically using ½ of 1 percent. If you look at all the roads together, including the side roads, the circles and the courts, she’s using less than ¼ of a percent. And yet the resolution if passed would increase our mill rate up to 2.2, when we use only a minor fraction of that road.”
MJ Cadle and David Jensen are the property owners right below Lampton. They also spoke against the annexation. Cadle talked about precedent, and noted that the properties in question were left out when the service area was established in 1988.
“We’re just asking you to recognize the precedent that’s already been set to leave us out of Forest Park,” she said.
The Assembly was voting on a resolution initiating the annexation process. Now that it’s been approved, an ordinance will be prepared. That ordinance will need to be introduced in one Assembly meeting, and then adopted in a second one before it’s official.
Even then, the annexation won’t be complete unless a majority of Forest Park Service Area voters approve it through a mail-in special election.
The property owners who would be annexed don’t get to vote. That’s part of state statute, amended about seven years ago.
The Assembly didn’t talk much about the issue when it came time to vote. But they did ask Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen to clarify the current regulations.
“If the only legal access to a subdivision is through an existing service area, those lots receiving their access from roads maintained by that service area can be compelled to join the service area without a vote of the people living on the lots that are going to be added,” he said.
In other words, if you use the road to get to your house, they can make you join.
Before that change in state law, any annexation had to be approved by the service area residents, and by the people who would be annexed. Naturally, the people who were to be annexed always voted no.
With the change in state law, that road block was removed.