While discussing neutral policy is a goal, councilors insist this isn't a 'land grab'
TIGARD - After years of neutrality, the city of Tigard will re-examine its policies toward annexation this year, but stressed that Bull Mountain residents need not worry about reopening old wounds.
After the city unsuccessfully tried to annex Bull Mountain in 2004, sparking an at-times hostile relationship between the two communities, the city passed a resolution in March 2007 saying it would not annex any land without a request from property owners.
Re-evaluating the policy is on the City Council's list of priorities for the year, along with improving the downtown and creating a recreation program within the city.
City Council President Gretchen Buehner said the city hasn't done enough to entice property owners to annex.
'What we have isn't working,' said Buehner, who believes the city should reconsider the policy. 'I don't know what that will be, but it has been at least five years. That seems like a reasonable request.'
Buehner said that the focus of the new policy would not look at Bull Mountain.
'I don't think there's any real interest in looking at the areas up on the hill,' Buehner said. 'There are still some pretty negative feelings (about the 2004 annexation attempt) rightly or wrongly. There are areas that aren't on the hill that also aren't in the city that we really need to take a hard look at.'
Buehner isn't alone; Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen and former city manager Craig Prosser have said publically that annexing Bull Mountain is not on the table, unless specifically requested by property owners.
Instead, Buehner said she would like the city to annex the pockets of unincorporated land within the city.
Although bordered by the city on all sides, these 'islands' of unincorporated land are technically not in the city and are serviced by Washington County.
There are currently 11 such islands within the city boundaries, totaling about 45 acres.
'The question is 'Can they realistically be served by the county?' and my personal opinion is that I don't think so,' Buehner said. 'They are so far within the city and have the city on both sides.'
According to Dirksen, Washington County has been in favor of the city annexing the land for years.
'Annexing the islands is something we hear from Washington County on a regular basis,' he said. 'That's a conversation that Washington County isn't just having with Tigard, but with all the cities of the county… It's an issue of long-term strategy and delivery of service issues that all cities and Washington County have been talking about.'
Not a 'land grab'
The current, neutral annexation policy did provide some incentives for property owners to annex - the city picks up much of the costs that must go to Metro and other government agencies associated with annexation and slowly phases in property taxes over a three-year period - but Buehner said that the benefits haven't worked as well as the city had hoped.
'Nobody's annexed,' Buehner said. 'We had some in the first year that I was on the council, and we have had some annexations, but the carrot of letting them annex for free isn't much of a carrot.'
Since the city formally adopted the policy in 2007, the city has received 11 applications for annexation into the city. One application is still in development, the rest have been annexed.
That list includes 224 acres of land along Southwest Roy Rogers Road the city acquired last year.
The land, known as River Terrace, is the largest annexation since the attempted Bull Mountain annexation. The city is also working with property owners in Urban Growth Boundary Study Area 63, to the south of River Terrace, to annex as well.
Buehner said it was likely that nothing would happen with the policy, but after five years of neutrality, Buehner said it was time to look at the issue again.
'I don't want this to come across as some kind of land grab, because that's not what we're about,' Buehner said. 'But we need to move off of the reflexive policy adopted after Bull Mountain. Maybe we will decide we don't want to annex anymore, or that if people want to annex they pay the full rate. I don't know what's going to happen. Everybody (on the Council) could say they want to keep the same policy or focus on certain areas, I don't know.'
There is no time table in place for evaluating the policy, but city officials have said it could likely be fall or later before the Council is able to take up the issue.