County's Esperance area may vote again on joining city

For the fifth time in about 40 years, residents of Esperance, a 450-acre island of unincorporated territory surrounded by Edmonds, will likely vote on whether they want to become part of the city.

Though the election is not a certainty yet, the city is scheduling a public hearing at the end of July to hear residents' comments about the proposal, after which the City Council is expected to let the area's 3,500-some residents vote on the matter.

Since 1963, when the first Esperance annexation vote took place, residents have rejected ballot measures to become part of Edmonds, saying they don't like the way the city is managed and they're happy with the services they're getting from Sno-

homish County.

In 1985, residents formed a group, the Action Council for Esperance, against a previous annexation effort. The group even tried to incorporate Esperance as its own city in 1994 but has since dimmed in influence.

The city says annexation would reduce annual property taxes for Esperance residents by an average of $88 per household and improve services such as road maintenance and police protection. But some locals worry that the city can't keep its promises. Their taxes would eventually go up, they think, and their tax dollars would be spent on projects elsewhere in Edmonds.

Some Esperance residents also speculate that Edmonds wants to incorporate the area just for the boost in tax revenue, an allegation the city denies.

"We didn't want people to think that we were cooking numbers," said Dan Clements, the administrative-services director for the city. "The bottom line is it isn't going to be a big intake for the city. It looks like it's going to be pretty much a wash."

Some Esperance residents also dislike some city laws, such as one that says Edmonds residents can have no more than five pets and another that wouldn't allow them to keep chickens.

"The city has always said how they were going to make our lives so much better," said Peggi LaPlante, a chicken owner and Esperance resident since 1977, who has been active in the effort against annexation. Based on conversations with residents of other areas that have been annexed by Edmonds, she said, "benefits of being a city resident don't really pan out."

Since 1990, outlying Esperance neighborhoods have voted to join the city, making the unincorporated area about one-third its former size.

Most of the remaining Esperance residents are against the annexation, said LaPlante, though Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson said he is pursuing annexation only because area residents have asked him to.

If the matter goes to a vote and the residents don't want to be part of the city, that's fine with him, Haakenson said, and there won't be another Esperance annexation effort as long as he is mayor.

"We will be just fine if the folks in Esperance don't want to be part of the city," he said.

Not all residents are against annexation, however. Greg Noack, a 10-year resident of Esperance, said it's time for staunch opponents of joining Edmonds to step back and look at the community around them.

"What's the difference between the city and the county? I don't see it anymore," Noack said. "Look — the times have changed. We need to move on."

LaPlante expects that Esperance residents would vote against annexation, though she does know a few people who are in favor of the change.

"If there are some people who really don't like living here in the county, then they could move," she suggested. "I just want to be left alone in my neighborhood, pay my taxes to the county, get the services we have that we're happy with."

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7813 or