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Highlands clears final annexation hurdle

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King City annexation process is being finalized after review by Department of Revenue and Secretary of State's office

FILE PHOTO - The Highlands has a coloring group that has met every Friday since November 2015, and on ths day in October, the following artists met to color and kibbitz: (Clockwise from lower left) Judy Sutton, Bill Henrickson, Beverly Melott, Nancy Crandell, Joanne Findtner, Billie Angel, Susan Kelter and Joan Elliott. After exactly a year of incubation, a plan that was conceived in early February 2016 for the Highlands to be annexed into King City finally hatched Feb. 15, 2017, with a unanimous vote by the King City City Council approving an ordinance to annex the community.

A year ago, members of the Highlands Board of Directors started discussions about requesting annexation into King City as a way to deal with issues, including outsiders parking on their streets that have come up as the area around it continues to be developed.

A petition requesting annexation was circulated among Highlands property owners, and by mid-August, more than 50 percent of the property owners and registered voters had signed it. The legal process, including verifying signatures, moved forward, culminating at the Feb. 1, 2017, King City City Council meeting, when the first reading of the annexation ordinance was read and a public hearing was held.

Ken Martin, a local government boundary consultant, told the council that the Highlands encompasses 52 acres, 215 single-family homes and 21 multi-family buildings with a total population of 415; he added that the Highlands has a valuation of approximately $70 million.

King City is establishing a five-year differential tax increase that provides for no increase in taxes for city purpose for Highlands residents in the first year and an increase of 20 percent per year until "the area reaches parity with the balance of the city over five years," according to Martin's memorandum.

Further, the city commits to working "diligently and in good faith" with the Highlands Homeowners Association on parking issues; the city will take ownership of the roads within the annexed area including the westernmost portion of Bexley Lane; and the city will include the area's roadway system in its street maintenance schedule.

Speaking as a proponent of the annexation, Highlands resident Gordon Keeney said he favored it "because the Highlands community will benefit by joining King City and getting enhanced police coverage and being part of a community."

He added, "I hope the City Council will review the Highlands board's proposed parking plan without bias."

Speaking in opposition was Rob Bartholomew, who questioned how Highlands streets would fit into the city's street maintenance plan.

Also speaking was Jerry Crane, who has been vocal about his concerns that King City doesn't have the resources to improve and maintain Highlands streets, and he is afraid that the area will be at the end of the list for any long-range maintenance plan.

The council voted 5 to 0 to continue the public hearing to Feb. 15.

At that point, it was all over except for the shouting – and a second reading of the ordinance at the Feb. 15 council meeting and vote by the council.

Sitting in the audience at that meeting was Dave Platt, president of the Highlands Board of Directors, who led the annexation effort, and Crane, which was a huge contrast to the Feb. 1 meeting, when the King City council chambers were packed and the meeting was taped by a Tualatin Valley Community Television crew.

At the Feb. 15 meeting, when the council voted 7 to 0 on the second reading of the annexation ordinance, Mayor Ken Gibson said, "I want to thank David Platt for all your hard work on this. We wouldn't be so far along otherwise."

City Manager Mike Weston commented, "This is kind of monumental for King City, and we want to recognize the efforts of the Highlands board and welcome Highlands residents. I'm sure we will have a great future together."

As far as the legal steps in the process, Weston said that in 30 days the annexation would be recorded with the Secretary of State's office, and then the annexation would be official.

After someone asked when the population number on King City signs will change, Weston said that new Census Bureau numbers will come out in January 2018, and then the signs will be changed.

Gibson commented, "Mike, you put a lot of effort into this, and the City Council thanks you for your energy and input. It's been a team effort."

The Secretary of State's office confirmed March 23 that the Department of Revenue had signed off on the application, which was sent back to the city to forward to the Secretary of State's office, which received it March 16.

Weston emailed the Regal Courier on March 24 that "we have not heard back from the Secretary of State's office, but we did receive notice from the Department of Revenue, so everything looks to be on track for April 1, 2017."

Welcome to King City, Highlands residents.

(The earlier part of this story ran in the March 2017 Regal Courier, but due to a production issue, the final version that included some of the later events did not appear in the paper.)