Business in the big city

While Vancouver will not become second to Seattle overnight, jurisdictions will work toward annexing all UGA land

Though a proposal to expand the pending Burnt Bridge Creek annexation from 823 acres to 26 square miles is all but dead, the land within Vancouver’s urban growth area where it already provides multiple services is destined eventually to fall within city limits.

Much of the area proposed to be included in the 26-square-mile annexation already has water and/or sewer services provided by the city. Fees for these services are less when included in the city limits. Other costs, such as garbage and utility taxes, would increase.

Though there are some differences, “the city and county are working hard to keep zoning and ordinance rules similar,” said Marlia Jenkins, program development manager for the county’s community development department.
While agreements and planning between the city and county are designed to make transitions seamless, annexation can result in significant changes.

Cascade Park: lessons of the past
Vancouver’s Cascade Park annexation in 1997 was the biggest in state history, bringing more than 17 square miles and 58,000 residents into the city. Since then the area has seen tremendous growth. Before the annexation there were no neighborhood parks in Cascade Park, today there are 26, said Suzan Wallace, Vancouver’s annexation coordinator.

Development of the parks occurred because of annexation, she said. Parks are considered an urban amenity, so the city dedicated funds for park construction and maintenance.

But improved amenities and services take time – the Firstenburg Community Center was only recently completed and construction of a police precinct is underway to serve residents in east Vancouver.
The Cascade Park annexation was originally much smaller and later expanded by the now-disbanded Boundary Review Board, which the city had not intended.

“The city was caught flat-footed in terms of the services it was prepared to provide,” said Jenkins.
Tim Schiller began his accounting firm Schiller and Co. P.C. just prior to the annexation of Cascade Park. He said changes following the annexation were mostly unnoticeable. The city’s business and occupation tax was in the process of being phased out and resulted in a minimal financial hit.

The biggest impact, said Schiller, is in the development that has occurred since the annexation. A contributing factor was the increase in exposure the city received from increasing its population.

“It gives the city more clout in the legislature without question,” said Schiller.

While growth would have occurred with or without annexation, Schiller said it was speeded along. Vancouver’s growing presence helped recruit businesses here and began shifting its image from being a bedroom community to Portland, he said.

Political influence
The proposed expansion of the Burnt Bridge Creek annexation would have made Vancouver the second largest city in the state. Wallace said the city was in the process of conducting an analysis of the benefits of becoming second only to Seattle in terms of population. The effort was halted when the Boundary Review Board was disbanded by the county commissioners.

In his recent state of the city address, Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard said Vancouver was all but ignored before the Cascade Park annexation.

“Now we are on the radar screens of state and federal decision-makers, which has been key in getting funding for many important projects in our community,” said Pollard.

The city notes funding for improvements along Interstate 5, State Route 500 and 192nd Avenue were given greater consideration after the Cascade Park annexation.

Besides increasing a city’s population, annexation brings in existing businesses and land for future development. The Vancouver mall was brought into city limits in a 1993 annexation, and Hewlett Packard, among others, became part of Vancouver with the Cascade Park annexation.

Increased development
Jenkins said the city and county both benefit from an increased level of development within city limits. The city would begin collecting a larger share of existing taxes, and businesses, for instance, would be required to purchase a license to operate in the city.

“One thing that appears to happen is more intensive development inside city limits,” said Jenkins. “The county benefits from higher property taxes if developed under city jurisdiction” as well as getting “a cut of the sales tax revenue no matter where it is collected.”

More recent, small-scale annexations include Columbia Tech Center, Birtcher Business Center and 192nd Avenue. These annexations were done to facilitate infrastructure improvements with the hope of spurring development.

Columbia Tech Center continues to see expansion of office and retail activity, and construction of a Wal-Mart is expected near the planned Birtcher Business Center. And the city of Vancouver has purchased land in the UGA just outside the Birtcher annexation for an operations center.

Burnt Bridge Creek
Wallace said the pending commercial-oriented Burnt Bridge Creek annexation has been strongly supported by businesses. The majority of the land within the more than 800-acre annexation area is proposed to be zoned as light industrial property.

An ad hoc annexation advisory board created by the City of Vancouver reviewed the annexation last week. The five-member organization was created by the city to help maneuver through annexation regulations that in the past were reviewed by the disbanded Boundary Review Board.

Bob Smith owns two acres of land on the south end of 152nd Avenue within the pending annexation. As the mostly vacant land within the Burnt Bridge Creek annexation is built out, he hopes to sell his lot as developable property. Smith supports annexation for the advantages he expects it will provide.

The city, he said, “has a much clearer picture of what needs to happen here.”

The city’s growing population needs to be balanced with developable land for business and job growth, he said.
Additionally, he said the city is easier to work with when developing land.

Smith has lived on his property for nearly 30 years and will be sad to leave it, but he knows it is inevitable. And when the time is right to sell, he wants an option.

“Get in with the guys that are steering it,” he said, “and see if you can’t help drive.”

Bringing in Burnt Bridge

August 2004
City Council combined the 39-acre Toedtli and 784-acre Burnt Bridge Creek annexation subarea requests.

November 2004
City council met with Burnt Bridge Creek property owners to discuss the annexation request. City Council decided there was sufficient support for the entire Burnt Bridge Creek annexation and accepted
the proposed annexation.

October 2005
City staff met with the Boundary Review Board staff for first pre-submittal review

January 2006
The city began exploring the possibility of expanding the Burnt Bridge Creek annexation to as much as 26 square
miles and held several public forums throughout the community. Later in the month, the county commissioners passed a resolution disbanding the Boundary Review Board, effective immediately.

April 2006
It is anticipated that the City Council will make its final decision regarding the Burnt Bridge Creek annexation in April 2006. If accepted, the annexation could become effective within 30 days of the decision.

October 2004
City staff worked to determine if there was enough support from the property owners to pursue annexation.

December 2004 through September 2005
City staff collected the necessary signature support to continue processing the annexation request. Under the 75-percent-petition method, written consent from property owners representing at least 75 percent of the area’s assessed value is required.

November 2005
City Council read the 75 percent resolution and held a public hearing. They unanimously passed the resolution supporting the annexation request. The city submitted Burnt Bridge Creek annexation subarea notice of intent to the Boundary Review Board

February 2006
The city continued its public forums and a Burnt Bridge Creek Ad Hoc Review Board was convened to review and make a recommendation regarding the proposed annexation to the city council.

Source: City of Vancouver