Panther Lake is topic of Kent Council vote

The Kent City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night directing city staff to move ahead with preliminary plans for the potential annexation of nearly 24,000 residents in the unincorporated Panther Lake area northeast of the city.

Students and parents leave Panther Lake Elementary School Wednesday. The school and the community around it could be part of the City of Kent in the near future

First step toward annexation

The Kent City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night directing city staff to move ahead with preliminary plans for the potential annexation of nearly 24,000 residents in the unincorporated Panther Lake area northeast of the city.

“This does not declare an intent to annex or fix a date for a vote,” Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke told the Council before its vote on the resolution.

But the 6-0 vote by the Council to approve the resolution does start the process enabling the Council decide either later this year or early in 2009 whether to place an annexation measure on the election ballot for 2009. That’s the time when Panther Lake residents will decide for themselves if they want to join the City of Kent.

“It’s a very preliminary step,” Fred Satterstrom, city community development director, told the Council. “I would characterize the resolution as the City of Kent is interested in looking at the potential annexation of Panther Lake.”

The jagged borders of the potential annexation area start north of Southeast 240th Street to near Southeast 192nd Street, and run east of 104th Avenue Southeast to near 132nd Avenue Southeast. The area covers 5 square miles and 3,200 acres.

The Panther Lake area includes seven Kent School District schools, Kentridge High School and six elementary schools: Panther Lake, Glenridge, Emerald Park, Soos Creek, Park Orchard and Sunrise.

The next steps for city staff include:

• Developing a public outreach program to inform residents of the Panther Lake area about the services that would be provided by the city versus services currently provided by King County.

• Developing an interlocal agreement with King County officials outlining the responsibilities of both jurisdictions on the potential annexation.

• Conducting further studies of the financial, regulatory, land-use and service-delivery impacts of annexation, potentially including opinion surveys of Panther Lake residents.

• Analyzing and preparing a timeline for the steps for a potential annexation vote.

After the studies are completed, city staff will return to Council, possibly in late 2008, with a resolution of notice of intent to the King County Boundary Review Board to place annexation on the ballot, Satterstrom said.

If the Council places an annexation measure on the ballot in 2009 and Panther Lake residents approve annexation to the city, the effective date of annexation would be Jan. 1, 2010.

King County has strongly encouraged cities through tax incentives to annex unincorporated areas, which is one reason so many annexation measures have been voted on over the last year in Auburn, Federal Way, Renton and other Puget Sound cities. King County successfully lobbied the state Legislature in 2007 to approve an annexation sales tax.

Any city with a population of less than 400,000 that annexes at least 10,000 people receives a portion of the state sales tax collected in that city for 10 years. To quality for that tax, cities must start the annexation process by Jan. 1, 2010.

An annexation of Panther Lake would boost Kent’s current population of 86,000 to an estimated 110,000.

City Attorney Tom Brubaker reminded the Council on Tuesday that state law prohibits city officials from taking a position for or against annexation. The Council can simply present the question to voters about whether to annex to the city.

After city staff reports back to the Council with more information on the impact and costs of annexation, the Council could decide to not place an annexation vote on the ballot.

“It’s an exploratory step,” Councilman Tim Clark said of the resolution approved Tuesday by the Council.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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