Boundary Review Board approves Elma annexation, with stipulations

City must take over maintenance of roadways. City can appeal to Superior Court.

The Grays Harbor County Boundary Review Board has approved an amended version of Elma’s plan for annexation.

Properties to the west of Elma, from Monte Elma Road south to the highway and west to Schouweiler Road, will be annexed into Elma city limits.

The Boundary Review Board made its decision on Jan. 4.

Annexing those properties into city limits has been a years-long process for city leadership, going back more than a decade.

The city had initially hoped the county would retain the roadways for continued maintenance. The county had objected to that proposal last year.

In December, the city offered an interlocal agreement that would have seen the city and county dividing the costs of maintenance in half between the two entities.

The county had asked that the city take on an additional financial burden for the maintenance of the roadways — a 60 percent and 40 percent split, for the city and county respectively.

The Boundary Review Board, however, ultimately voted to allow annexation so long as the city takes on 100 percent of roadway maintenance. The vote was 4-1 in favor of the motion.

“I was disappointed in their decision for us to take on all of their streets, when all the county was requesting was that we take on 60 percent,” Mayor Jim Sorensen said on Jan. 9.

Sorensen said he preferred to discuss the matter with the city council during its next meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, before commenting further.

Elma Public Works Director Jim Starks spoke on behalf of the city during the Boundary Review Board meeting. Starks noted that nearly all of the businesses and residences within the annexation area use the city’s water service. In the past, the city had noted that residents living within the area use the city’s services without contributing to the tax base.

Sorensen also spoke on behalf of his city, noting public hearings were held on the potential annexation. “The main reason we’re annexing is because the people who live there want us to. We don’t force people to annex into our city,” Sorensen said.

Had the city decided to annex in properties to the north of Monte Elma Road, the city would have proposed annexing in the roadway as well, Sorensen noted, but without those properties, county residents also are benefitting from roadway maintenance. The county also benefits from a road tax base.

Grays Harbor County Engineer Rob Wilson, who presented to the Boundary Review Board, had mixed feelings about the board’s decision in comments to the county commissioners on Jan. 9.

“The board gave us everything we wanted and more,” Wilson said. “In my mind, it should have just been denied, but I’m happy with what they decided on.”

The city has said overall costs to residents within the area of annexation would not increase following annexation. While some taxes and fees would be increased compared to what the county charges, the city charges less for other taxes and fees.

While not all zoning is the same compared to the county, the city collaborated with property owners to determine the best city zoning to ensure the property could continue functioning as is when annexation occurs.

The Boundary Review Board is a judiciary board. Board members are Pat Oleachea, Randy Karnath, Rick Lovely, Bill Messenger and Roberta Myers. Messenger cast the lone dissenting vote.

The board will meet again on Feb. 1 to give a final decision. The city has 30 days to appeal the board’s decision after it’s filed. If the city appeals, the decision will go before Grays Harbor County Superior Court. If there are no appeals, the land will be annexed into city limits following the expiration of the appeal period.