Annexation vote denied by city council

Hood River officials have rescinded an earlier move to have voters decide whether some territory on the city's outskirts should be annexed.

On Monday, the city council reviewed new information about the polling process and decided that it would be both costly and risky to place the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot as planned.

Alexandra Sosnkowski, city attorney, has been researching the methodology for passing the ballot measure since city officials decided to take that direction on July 30. She has recently learned that a successful vote would require approval by two separate majorities; one from city residents and the other from inhabitants in the urban growth areas where annexation was proposed. Even if the vast number of voters in one sector favored the incorporation, it would still fail if it didn't gain the popular vote in the other location.

City officials felt that municipal residents already paying property taxes for sewer and water services would likely be in favor of sharing maintenance and operating costs with their neighbors. However, the elected body also anticipated that landowners would resist having their property taxes increased by an average of $300 per year -- even though many of these individuals were also accessing city water and sewer. After debate, the council did not believe that the expenditure of $4,500 to place the issue on the November ballot and the additional $2,400 for educational materials to help voters understand the need for annexation would be a good investment.

The council also didn't believe it was fair to have voters who did not own land subject to annexation to make a decision that would not hit their pocketbooks directly. They had concerns as well that the voting process would prohibit landowners who did not reside on their parcels from having a say on the issue.

"What we've decided to do is go back to the basics," said Steve Everroad, city finance director. "We're trying to recover the money that we are currently paying for services we provide to the urban area."

That means city staffers will throw out previous plans to annex four large areas and go back to the drawing board. They will spend the next few weeks researching which new subdivisions and other recently developed parcels abutting the city's borders have already signed on to annexation in exchange for access to city water and sewer. That topographical checkerboard will then be reviewed by the council for further action.

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