Put urban areas in cities – County passes resolution

By Marianne Lincoln

On June 28, 2016, the Pierce County Council held its final hearing on Resolution 2016-79s, a Resolution of the Pierce County Council Related to Comprehensive Plan Certification by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC); Expressing County Intent and Deadlines Regarding Efforts to Encourage Annexation and Incorporation of Unincorporated Urban Areas; and Finding Pierce County has Satisfied a Condition of PSRC Certification.

The final vote of aye at 4 to 3 can be seen at the council site through the link above. It shows how the council voted.

The hearing began with a presentation by staff member Hugh Taylor. He presented the map showing areas on urban Pierce County that are within potential annexation areas in orange and the yellow represented the areas that are not within the reach of any city annexation. (The map is separate in the next article)

There are areas called Urban islands that he expressed a priority to be assimilated into one of their surrounding cities. These areas are very difficult to serve for the country who must pass through other jurisdictions to reach them. He noted, “These cause services & law enforcement issues… we are trying to streamline annexation in those areas.”

Taylor said the council staff would be approaching the legislature regarding

  • Laws related to sales & use tax and
  • Laws to assimilate urban islands.

Taylor also noted the

  • County will identify pockets that should be annexed
  • County to review future incorporation areas
  • Progress report made back to the council.

In response to people who are wondering whether or not this resolution forced annexation or incorporation to occur, “The answer is no, It starts the process.”

In regard to future annexations, he listed the various ways that can occur.

  1. A vote of the people in the annexation area, by voter petition RCW 35.13.020
  2. A vote of the people in the annexation area, by city resolution RCW 35.13.015
  3. Annexation by a petition of owners of 60% of the property value in a given area (common in business districts), there is no voting on these RCW 35.13.125
  4. Annexation by a petition of owners of 60% of the property value in a given area and voters RCW 35.13-410

Taylor noted that annexation & incorporation will continue to follow state law. If Pierce County’s Comprehensive Plan is not certified by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), then the county is not compliant and funding dollars allocated through the PSRC will go to other jurisdictions.


Councilwoman McDonald asked about the 2 methods of annexation that allow for a referendum following the annexation, “How would the people be told, will they have time to refer it to a referendum?”

Taylor answered affected residents would be informed that the county and city are negotiating an annexation agreement. As soon as that process is agreed to, the city takes and effects the annexation, then the citizens have 45 days to qualify for a referendum. [Editor note: That is a short time to get 10% signatures.] The referendum cannot be done any sooner 45 days.


Councilman Richardson stated, “We cannot compel someone to do an annexation.” He went on to note, an incorporation is an action taken by the citizens by a petition. If a measure fails, there is a number of years before it can go back on the ballot, before it can be reconsidered. Richardson was involved in the incorporation of Lakewood and they had failed incorporation votes in the past.

No one noted that an annexation proposal will actually supersede an incorporation, but that is also the case.

Councilman McCune asked, “What is the citizen participation in PSRC? How do people find out about the meetings? How many people in the yellow area on the map, how do they find out we’re passing something they don’t even know about?”

Taylor did not have an answer. He noted there is a website that lists meetings, but there is no other notification unless a citizen gets on a mailing or email list for a particular topic.

Councilman Talbert asked about the PSRC authority. Noting he heard constituents ask, where is their authority? “I don’t know if they actually have the authority to do what they are doing.” [Editor note: Talbert is the Pierce County representative on the PSRC] It’s not a convenient time for our constituents to attend. [weekday mornings] Talbert also remarked,

  • We should invest time in finding where this authority does rest.
  • We should approach the Association of Counties? [WSAC]
  • We need to find out if we are going through steps we are supposed to. There are folks from other municipalities … raising the same questions… we need to get a handle on it.”

Taylor replied, “I am glad Pierce County citizens were there to participate in this process.” (last Thursday) He noted several cities were also at the last PSRC meeting testifying about conditional certification.

Chair Richardson wanted to talk about what an NPO is and their function.

Taylor said there are 2 – RTPO (Regional Transportation Planning Organization), an entity which the Federal transportation dollars are allocated, that process is a certification process. PSRC is a regional transportation funding organization, they have federal transportation dollars to allocate to the four county area.

The other is the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization, MTPO, for inter-city transit funding.

Councilman Roach asked about the regional process for counties.

Taylor explained the original plan for PSRC, in 2008, called Vision 2040 was adopted regarding Growth Strategy, with large & small cities, counties, etc. The document identifies types of jurisdictions. The process is an evolution. He noted, “I am not an expert on PSRC, by any means… They have policy boards that decide how they allocate it. Those are all set forth in inter-local agreements.”

Councilman Young asked about Growth Management Act (GMA) issues. He asked, ”Would we be doing anything differently if we did not have these conditions put on us?”

Taylor replied, “The conditional certification may have accelerated the process, but policy directions are set within the comp plan.”

Young asked if the PSRC dictates our growth plan.

Taylor replied, “No, some of the criticism is that the UGA is a bit robust (in Pierce County).”


Taylor added, “We have done quite a bit of (looking at the UGA) adopted in 1994. Look at the history. You see that the enlargement that we see has been pushed by cities.”

At this point the council directed the public hearing to begin.

Dennis Hanberg the director of Planning and Land Services (PALS) spoke first. His points:

  • Obviously we didn’t want to be conditionally approved.
  • We want to start working with cities on some of these islands, that’s the effort from an efficiency stand point.
  • Cities are supposed to be urban, counties are supposed to be rural, that’s where we have a problem
  • City of Pierce was not an annexation focus.
  • Primarily we’ve done a great job getting our comp plan adopted, but the PSRC review (took things sideways)
  • We are starting the policy plan for the next update.
  • He asked about the significance of the relationship, we need to have with the PSRC.

[Editor note: The following are notes from comments and not the complete comments. I could not hear everything or take notes fast enough, some is paraphrased. You can review the video of the council meeting on-line for exact quotes.]

David Friscia, Pierce Communities Coalition (PCC), Graham –

  • He noted the PSRC formed in 1982. “I went to PSRC where there was definitely a vote … I heard… it was suggested … public participation is too expensive and not to be used…”

Richard Thurston – (PCC), Frederickson — urged passage, saying…

  • What it amounts to at this point is a ritualistic incantation that we have to present to a … body over which we have no control.
  • There are things that the county council can do to encourage or discourage annexation or incorporation. We need to look seriously at policy and how incorporation is going to affect relationships.
  • The needs of Parkland are quite different from the needs of Frederickson. Working without a LUAC (Land Use Advisory Committee) group and PALS, we need to make sure this doesn’t become a uniform one size fits all (plan).
  • Try to get the basic idea of what the community wants. That process needs to go forward, but I caution you to be concerned about how the actual incorporation process is going to work.

Thea Christofferson –

  • PSRC is not elected by the citizens whose decision they affect. The areas that are chosen for annexation or incorporation should be a decision of the citizens affected.
  • We are blackmailed by withholding funds. Our republic was founded on individual liberty,… we are a representative government.
  • Thank council for trying to mitigate some of the damage.
  • All the money granted by PSRC for whatever purposes has many costly attachments to it. Many of the strings cost more (than the value of the dollars provided).
  • Do not take their money and have the freedom to make our own (local) decisions.
  • You are seeing the dilemma.

Cindy Beckett – (PCC, Midland)

  • Spent the whole weekend researching on GMA in state law, found PSRC mentioned once in one line. They address transportation, state highways.
  • She spoke with The State Office of Commerce about PSRC…. Who said they never told the county to do this.
  • The certification is for transportation funds, nothing else
  • The reason that we have lost certification is that Fed and State have ruled the counties/cities have to control the congestion that occurs on state highways. It’s about the volume of traffic, they are jammed and now exceed the 100 man-hour delay rule.
  • The PSRC had no idea that we could not absorb the urban area into a city because there are NO surrounding cities to annex it to.

Marianne Lincoln – Commented about the attempted incorporation of Spanaway and its historic significance going back to the Hudson Bay Company Farm that was located there. Spanaway is as old or older than Steilacoom, it just wasn’t a city. When Spanaway attempted incorporation in 1997, the county provided less money than other jurisdictions for a feasibility study and the boundary review board removed considerable commercial tax base on both the north and south boundaries, effecting a loss of feasibility for the jurisdiction. Communities that may want to incorporate need to be in the negotiations at the beginning so there is some meat on the bone to create their city with.

Jim Halmo – Graham

  • One of the hang-ups was the “City of Pierce” and that was presented to you in Dec 2015… and this is what you got. This is based upon changes in land use policies, the annexation issues is not the only thing going on here.

David Artis – PCC (Midland) He presented a letter last week from the PCC

  • We asked some rather poignant questions, we got smoke and mirrors in regard to answers.
  • None of the communities has enough contiguous border with Tacoma or Puyallup, so annexations can’t work. I don’t see anywhere it says the county can initiate this process… But give us a month and we can be the experts.
  • We are interacting with them as we speak. In reference to these community plans, which have been put in the background. (Community plans were eliminated with a vote last year)

Bud Rehberg – PCC (Graham/ElkPlain)

  • Went to the previous PSRC meeting. They were different in demeanor. I asked for conditional certification – don’t blame me for that, I don’t think they listen to me any more than anyone else.
  • I was standing here 2 decades ago. Chair Moss had some concerns. Things work out over time, some better, some worse…
  • Overjoyed the community members came out, it so frustrating the community members can’t always come out to address their concerns.
  • The process for incorporation can be very disruptive to family life, friends for the people involved.

John Marshall – PCC (Frederickson)

  • 6 houses in your backyard on a community drain field can pollute your well.
  • I think you have lost the public trust.
  • Last week you lost the public trust when you brought a resolution forward on Monday for final passage on Tuesday.
  • You lost the public trust when you delayed the Marijuana legislation
  • You lost the public trust when you destroyed community plans.
  • You lost the public trust when you failed to make development pay for development.
  • The public doesn’t trust you to make decision for them anymore.
  • You didn’t see that public infrastructure was in place and you have an out of control storm water utility run amok.
  • …. (More)
  • Now you encourage annexation and incorporations. I think you’ve lost our trust.

Jim Akers – PCC (Summit Waller)

  • The rural separator will be adversely affected by the current process and planning. He sent a letter earlier by email… about being proactive not reactive.
  • It’s mostly reactive because of our transportation planning. We need to step back, come at this a whole different direction.
  • We’re trying to correct some management sins decades in the building, Take a look at a real comprehensive transportation plan… not one that suits King County, but one that suits Pierce County. Then bring in reps from Olympia and D.C. (to get assistance.)
  • Get a 20 – 30 year plan in place with Federal Funding. Then involve the Port and other cities and counties… we need to look at the importance of our actions.

Carol Hoosier – PCC (North Clover Creek Collins)

  • Difficult to hear, she mentioned schools and 112th & Waller, … need to be protected at all costs…mentioned $6m from Fed Hwy funds.

Carolyn Benum — Graham

  • We will be affected in the rual areas that are still Pierce County. (referring to other speakers) These people said everything I want to say, table it, don’t pass it, table it.

Bob Benum – Graham

  • What is Pierce County’s tax base ~ $1bil/year? If PC loses the tax base (to cities), what does that do for me, because I am still in the county? The tax base in Frederickson alone is (a big impact/loss).
  • My one acre piece of property is wonderful, but what happens to my service when you have a big budget cut?
  • You are losing tax dollars, what is that number and how are we going to overcome it? When we lose it to the cities… what happens, how are we going to over come it.?END Public comment

Councilman Young –

  • PSRC is in the same section of code you find for county wide planning process, the last section. The connection with transportation policy is Vision 2040, Transportation 2040.
  • They are not ordering us to do things that are contrary to state law. It doesn’t take away from sub-plans, it doesn’t take away from community plans.
  • I’m annoyed they made this a part of our conditions.
  • The electeds in that group decided to complainin about the unusually large unincorporated area. (in Pierce County)
  • Our community plans are out of date and need to be updated.
  • Most of this conversation is about growth management… we cannot go back to sprawl .

Councilman McCune –

They are pushing a vision onto you. It’s very clear to me this is not a good vision, necessarily. I have never been for this vision. Let them build their own community. …I am not for development… You control your vision… He requested the chair to table this vision today to get the real vision.

Councilman Roach –

  • With the PSRC evolution, we receive instructions and report back. It’s so foreign to me to hear that I am going to go to some other county and receive instructions and report back.
  • This is a bigger issue than we can resolve overnight. This is a local control issue. I have serious concerns with that.
  • We have consequences if we fail to act.
  • There is a potential challenge to the GMHB.
  • We could delay it a year, we need to bring the public in and they will be really happy they are allowed that time…
  • We receive a major thing and it has a major effect on you and it already has a deadline… (not happy with this)
  • I would urge you talk to friends, work with your neighbors… Let electeds know there are concerns… I would like to see people be a part of this process…

Councilman McCune made a motion to postpone Resolution 2016-79s, it was seconded by Councilman Roach. The motion was to postpone it indefinitely.

Councilman Young asked if the shoreline postponement affected grants, this resolution has grant funds in affect in this cycle.

Hugh Taylor said there are competitors that would take the grant monies.

Councilman Young noted this (postponement) will be used against us without a doubt… there are other cities/counties that want these funds.

Councilman Talbert noted he was in the PSRC meeting arguing against this conditional approval. “I was there, which County Council members haven’t always done. I am not willing to play chicken with the grant funding we have right now. This is completely different. What we are acting on today is (different). This isn’t us complying with conditions put on us, the reality is most of what I hear today, we have the ability to manage and take care of our issues regarding our planning.”

This county council itself has restricted the community plans you folks have been asking for us to do. I am not willing to play chicken. We need to move forward. Work with our stated parties and other counties and fine tune or change, not throw away $3million of transportation funding.

Voice vote, Postpone fails.
Rollcall requested: Roach Yes, Talbert No, Young No, Ladenberg No, McCune Yes, McDonald Yes, Richardson No

Councilwoman McDonald –

  • I am very much for cooperation with other counties, we have gone past cooperation and come down to mandating, none of us like that. … The regional government approach with planning with transportation is great. … It has become other officials from other jurisdictions telling us what to do. Hopefully this will get a conversation going …

Councilman Richardson –

  • Very much appreciated the citizens who came forward and attended the PSCRC meeting. Being a councilmember that was part of a newly incorporated city, the county doesn’t necessarily support newly incorporated cities… (Lakewood, 1995). That is a self-driven mechanism, its citizen initiated. I am familiar with the BRB and having changes made.
  • There are parts of the county that are in UGA’s that have been established for a considerable time.
  • Was Lakewood trying to annex Parkland? It’s not in their UGA/annexation area.
  • Mr. Akers letter was excellent.
  • What really is the authority of the NPO beyond transportation?
  • We will get the conversation going forward on how much the PSRC can demand going forward.
  • The staff and the GMHB comprised of public officials, voted to reject the staff recommendation and make Pierce County conditionally certified. (I am only on the PSRC when Rick Talbert has a cold.)
  • When annexations happen, the county continues to receive property tax, what is lost to the county is only the road tax portion.

Rollcall: Roach No, Talbert Yes, Young Yes, Ladenberg Yes, McCune No, McDonald No, Richardson Yes

Resolution 2016-79s passed.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bruce Allen Rice says:

    Would like to see a photo of the red and yellow map you mentioned in the first part of this article.

  2. It was 1:40am when I finished. Just didn’t remember to add it. Thanks for the reminder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s