Town will accept petition for annexation of Buck property

Friday Harbor Town Council members approved Thursday the circulation of a petition for annexation of the 46-acre Buck property, 15 acres of which would be an affordable-housing neighborhood developed by the San Juan Community Home Trust.

The vote was 3-0; Councilman Christopher Wolf was absent and there is one vacancy.

The vote was an important step in the long process of annexation, which started with the town’s request of the county that the area be included in the town’s Urban Growth Area. The next step: When the town receives the petition, a public hearing will be held, followed by a council vote on annexation. Town Attorney Don Eaton said the council is not committed to annexing the area, and can choose to annex all or part of the area.

Signing the petition is a formality; it must be signed by the property owners — of which there are three — in the area proposed to be annexed.

Proponents say annexation is critical to the development of the affordable-housing project, because it will allow the extension of town utilities to the neighborhood. But one issue sure to be discussed is the cost of extending utility service to the area and how that will affect utility rates, already among the highest in the state.

Councilwoman Carrie Lacher, who lives in the Home Trust’s Salal Neighborhood on Carter Avenue, is initially supportive of the annexation.

She likes the proposed neighborhood’s proximity to Friday Harbor Elementary School and Island Rec’s yet-unnamed park in the former gravel pit. She said the project would help contribute to the “walkability” of the town.

“It’s a good candidate for annexation,” she said. “I would like to take this first little step to keep it moving.”

Home Trust director Nancy DeVaux seemed relieved after the vote. The Home Trust has raised about $2 million for the project. More than half is in grants, and DeVaux fears the grant money could be in jeopardy if the project is delayed.

The Home Trust proposes building up to 120 homes, 15 of which could be completed by 2010. The Buck family proposes building a mix of homes on its remaining acreage. The development could include a road between Turn Point and Pear Point roads, which would give motorists another way to get to town — via Argyle Avenue, as opposed to tiny Warbass Way.

The town is about 640 acres, or one square mile. But the town would grow by 70 acres if this annexation request and possibly two others are approved.

A letter of intent for annexation has been submitted to the town by Bobby Ross Construction, which is developing a nine-acre neighborhood near Lampard Road. Town Administrator King Fitch said a request fromn another property owner, the Boe family, is possible.

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