City sends 'urban fringe'annexation to voters

Hood River voters will decide whether some territory on the "urban fringe" of the city should be annexed.

Last week, the Hood River City Council gave the nod to placing the issue on the November ballot. Officials believe the incorporation of the central and western outskirts of the city will provide residents with several key benefits. These include quicker response times by emergency service providers and consistent development guidelines to ensure orderly residential and commercial growth.

(Previously scheduled hearings on the issue have been cancelled.)

The council decided to let city and urban growth area residents decide the issue after it received mixed reviews on pending plans to annex 277 acres of property near Frankton Road. Although many landowners in the area signed on to that proposal, both Ice Fountain Water District and Westside Fire Department challenged the city's legal right to make that move without the express consent of the people. If the city annexes the property, West Side would lose part of its tax funding base and Ice Fountain has raised concerns over finances should the city decide to take over as the primary water supplier within those sectors.

The Frankton Road annexation proposal was the first of four on the city's drawing board. However, the upcoming vote will only include that area and land west of the Heights that runs south to Country Club Road. The remaining zones on the northwestern and eastern borders have been placed on hold because the city cannot currently afford infrastructure upgrades to accommodate their incorporation.

The city originally proposed using the "triple majority" method of annexation on the two proposed territories, but feared it could be open to a legal challenge on constitutional grounds since that alternative would not provide a voice for non-property owners who resided in the subject areas. Under the triple majority approach, Oregon law requires that the annexation be upheld by 75 percent of the property owners who hold 61 percent of the involved parcels and 75 percent of the assessed value. For more than 30 years, landowners within the urban growth boundaries have been required to sign consent agreements for annexation when they requested access to city infrastructure. These agreements have carried over as a deed restriction from owner to owner.

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