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Tigards pitch for volunteer annexation draws fire

The city will waive its $2,447 annexation fee until February 2009

TIGARD - According to the city of Tigard, letting residents annex into the city at no cost is a great deal.

The city waives it fees and even kicks in some cash when it comes to the Metro filing, and in return residents who live contiguously along the city's borders begin to get city amenities like Tigard police services, a small local government and street maintenance.

But the city's notice of voluntary annexation options through phased mailing to 500 property owners within 100 feet of the city boundaries has caused a little stir among some Metzger residents.

James Riggs, a 30-year Metzger resident, fears that if the old community is annexed into Tigard one property at a time, Metzger will eventually lose its identity.

And for longtime residents like Riggs and Pat Whiting, all that the unincorporated community of Metzger has left is its identity with an old park, unofficial trails, large lots and big trees.

Last month the Tigard City Council approved a resolution that extends the city's offer of incentives to property owners who voluntarily annex until February 2009. The city's incentives, which were established in 2007, waives the city's $2,447 annexation fee, includes the city's payment of the Metro mapping/filing fee ranging from $150 to $400 and phases in the city's property taxes over a three-year period. A newly annexed homeowner with a $400,000 home could expect to pay $538 a year in city taxes after the second year.

'We don't want to force people to come in,' said Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen. 'And we don't think we need to.'

According to Dirksen and the city of Tigard's Web site, the advantages of annexing into the city are plentiful, and for urban areas that lie outside city limits, the advantages are needed.

In letters issued to unincorporated property owners, Dirksen notes that concerns for urbanized areas stems from examples of unincorporated urban areas declining over time as county governments lose the ability to provide adequate services. Dirksen pointed toward Metzger's deteriorating streets, lack of infrastructure improvement plans and general need for more services as a reason why Metzger residents should want to annex into Tigard.

'I think it's in everyone's best interest for urbanized areas to be in the city,' Dirksen said.

But some Metzger residents aren't convinced. Riggs called Tigard's letters on voluntary annexation another 'boondoggle' by city officials.

Annexation, voluntary and forced, seems to carry negative connotations with some of Tigard's best and worst neighbors. In 2004, Tigard's offer to annex Bull Mountain as a community failed to gain enough resident support. And just last year, some Bull Mountain residents were still irked to hear that the city of Tigard was requiring developers to agree to annex into the city before being issued building permits for projects outside the city.

Dirksen says the move against annexation has been sensationalized over the past few years with news reports giving annexation a negative feeling.

Whiting estimated that about 40 percent of the original Metzger community has already been annexed into the city of Tigard. The small community has its own park local improvement district that Metzger residents pay into. And even when annexed into Tigard, Metzger residents still pay into the LID to support the park maintenance.

So with its own park, its own identity and a good working relationship with county government, Whiting said many Metzger residents are comfortable with being unincorporated. And the biggest concern about eventual piecemeal annexation into Tigard is the loss of Metzger's quality of life.

Annexation into a city brings concerns of development. But Dirksen noted that even if annexed, 99 percent of Metzger's zoning would not change.

From the city's first wave of mailing for voluntary annexation options, it received six calls from residents interested in annexing to the city, said Assistant Planner Marissa Daniels. And in early March, two property owners were in the process of completing annexation. And from the mailing to the Metzger area, the city received four calls - three were from residents interested in learning more and one was from a resident upset by receiving the letter.

Whiting admitted that the future of Metzger as an unincorporated area lies completely in the hands of its residents. And she acknowledged that each resident has the right to choose whether to join the city or not.