Fairwood ponders incorporation

Their mailing addresses are Renton. Their police protection, road work and other services are provided by King County.

About 26,000 residents who live in the Fairwood area between Renton and Maple Valley face a key question about their future: Do they want to live in unincorporated King County, in Renton or in a new city named Fairwood?

King County is encouraging unincorporated urban areas like Fairwood to become cities through annexation or incorporation.

A group of Fairwood-area residents called the Fairwood Task Force is moving through the steps toward incorporation and hopes to have the incorporation question on the ballot next year.

"We want to be able to control our own zoning so we can keep the community quiet and laid-back, which is how it is now," said task force President Aaron McLuen, who has lived in the Fairwood area for two years with his wife, who grew up in the area, and their two children. "We're really at a crossroads where we need to do something."

Push to incorporate

The Growth Management Act calls for the counties to concentrate on offering rural and regional services, which could mean a decline in services for unincorporated urban areas such as Fairwood if they don't become a part of cities.

An Aug. 12 draft of a study completed for King County says the area could become a city with the same level of services without a tax increase, said Mike Thomas, a senior policy analyst in King County's Office of Management and Budget. But it would be one of the poorest cities in King County, he said.

Fairwood would not need to be become a big city with tall buildings, a fancy city hall, 50 city employees and high taxes, McLuen said.

"The city kind of scares some people," he said. "They automatically assume more cost."

But as part of a city, residents who don't want higher taxes can vote for City Council members who also want to keep taxes low, McLuen said.

"Folks there need to grapple with what is their future, whether it is annexation or incorporation," Thomas said.

One Fairwood development, Maplewood Addition, has submitted signatures asking to become part of Renton.

The development, which is half Renton and half unincorporated King County, is in the northwest corner of the proposed city of Fairwood.

Urban area

The area already is urban. There isn't space for a big store like Costco or Wal-Mart, McLuen said.

"We're really kind of constrained geographically," he said. "For people who don't want growth, that's probably a good thing."

Housing developments — many built in the 1960s — fill up the land, leaving few empty spots. The Fairwood Golf & Country Club occupies a central spot.

Fairwood shopping centers offer a QFC, Safeway, dry cleaner, dentists, attorneys, a liquor store, a Subway, a pharmacy and a couple of restaurants, and the Fairwood Library is just down the street from the shopping centers.

As Janet Pearce finished shopping at Safeway, she said the area offers a friendliness she hasn't found in any of the six other places she has lived.

When Pearce and her four children moved to Fairwood four years ago, her children were invited to new friends' houses after their first day in school.

Now Pearce's children — ages 19, 21, 23 and 25 — aren't sure they want to live anywhere else, she said.

One of her daughters likes the area so much that she has bought two homes there.


Annexation has been proposed for this area between Renton and Maple Valley.

Population: 34,580 (2000 Census)

Schools: Fairwood includes schools in the Renton and Kent districts.

Housing: Of 14,762 homes, 73.7 percent are owner-occupied; 23.8 percent are renter-occupied; 2.5 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: Valley Medical Center, 400 S. 43rd St., Renton

Shopping: Fairwood Shopping Center, Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter

Seattle Times staff researcher Miyoko Wolf