Two opponents agree that state law needs to be amended
Salem citizens had an early taste of election fever this year when they were asked to vote on 35 city-initiated annexation proposals in September. All 35 were passed adding more than 300 acres to the city. Thirty-two owner-initiated annexation proposals covering over 500 acres will be on the ballot in November.
Property taxes for owners of newly added parcels will increase because city taxes will be added to county and other taxes already levied. It is estimated that these annexations will add more than $250,000 to city revenue, however, this additional revenue will be offset with costs incurred by the expansion of city services.
The city-initiated annexations are part of the City of Salem’s Annexation Program, adopted in 2005. The Program includes two categories of territory for annexation.
It brings into Salem those properties outside city limits in which the owners had signed contracts to become part of the city in exchange for city services. As part of these agreements, when those properties become contiguous with the city, they are to be annexed.
The Program also calls for the annexation of those properties, called “islands” or “enclaves,” which are parcels of land completely surrounded by the boundaries of the City of Salem. According to state law, island or enclave annexations don’t require the property owners of these parcels to vote. The voters of Salem passed an ordinance in 2000 that required all annexations to be approved by voters. Previously, this was under the control of the city council. Because of state law, however, owners of enclave properties can’t vote on their own annexation because they are not residents of Salem.
This arrangement has many landowners who don’t want to be annexed into the city upset.
Many, including Republican State Representative Billy Dalto, claim that this practice is “taxation without representation.” Dalto believes the law needs to be changed at the state level.
“I’m working on legislation that requires cities to extend the vote to residents of territories proposed for annexation,” he said.
The legislation also would require cities to phase in property tax increases if the territory is annexed and to set aside gains in property taxes for use in providing services to those territories.
Brian Clem is Dalto’s Democratic opponent in the race for House District 21, which includes east Salem where many of these annexations have been proposed. It is a swing district that could help narrow the Republican House majority. Clem is making annexation a campaign issue and also believes state law needs to be changed.
“For me, it is a voting issue. I don’t think people should be brought into the city against their will without a chance to vote on it,” Clem said.
He has formed an organization called “SAVE” or “Strengthening Annexation Voices in East Salem.” Approximately 120 people came to their first meeting.
Clem first became involved with this issue when he helped to promote the 2000 ordinance requiring city residents to vote on annexations. He had been living in Corvallis, the first city in the state to pass such an ordinance, and saw firsthand its effects.
“I saw what kind of development was being proposed when the developers had to answer to the voters, and I thought the law worked well,” Clem said.
Even though their positions appear to be similar on this issue, Dalto faults Clem for supporting an ordinance that fails to give property owners the right to vote on their own annexations.
“The voter approved annexations ordinance did nothing to address the injustice of taxation without representation,” he said.
Another of Dalto’s concerns is that the city lacks the resources for these newly acquired parcels and their residents.
“The City has an interest in future annexations in east Salem; however, they cannot move forward on their interest because the City lacks the resources to provide services to the new territories. It will take years before the City can act on their interests,” Dalto said.
According to a fact sheet provided by the Clem campaign, some residents have expressed concern over the quality of their water system and the city has said that an in-depth analysis would be performed, which would include evaluating the willingness of the property owners to pay for the costs of bringing the system up to standard.
The Clem campaign also stipulates that the City has said they will not add sidewalks and streetlights, leaving these “upgrades” to developers.
The City of Salem’s Annexation Program is part of a drive to bring annexation to the edge of the urban growth boundary. The City had formally announced such intentions in its council goals for fiscal year 2005-06.
On March 14, 2005, Mayor Janet Taylor testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Land Use. (The full audio of the committee hearing is available at www.leg.state.or.us/listn/.) The committee was reviewing state land use laws and city-initiated annexations as a result of the Nike dispute with Beaverton.
After the Beaverton City Council adopted an aggressive annexation policy in fall 2004, it annexed islands surrounded by the city. While not making a move on Nike specifically, the city began annexing the land surrounding it, creating an “island” that would be forced into annexation.
The bills then under consideration by the committee would have limited Salem’s ability to move forward on its own proposed annexations.
At the hearing, Mayor Taylor testified that the City of Salem planned to annex a majority of East Salem (county) residents within the UGB into city limits through island annexation over the next two years.
During her testimony, when Senator Charlie Ringo asked Mayor Taylor if she could do that without getting the consent of the people that live there, she replied that she could.
“And you don’t have a problem with that?” he asked.
Mayor Taylor responded, “You know, I don’t, because we have so many requests from them. ‘Please annex me.’ But we can’t because they’re not contiguous to the city limits. They want more services; they want urban services.”
Mayor Taylor was referring not only to the areas of Salem currently being annexed, she also meant other county residents in the east Salem area.
“I mean even the people in the gray areas [county residents as designated on a map]…I really believe it is time that we start listening to what the word is: urban services…Don’t pass any of these annexation bills. Make it easier to annex within the UGB.”
In a recent interview with Salem Monthly (August 06), Mayor Taylor said that while she is against expansion of the UGB, it would have to be done to meet state laws and mandates. She did not respond to recent requests from Salem Monthly for comment.
Clem says that according to the East Salem Rural Fire District, potentially over 20,000 people who reside between Lancaster and Cordon Road and are currently county residents will be affected by annexation. Whether the services they need will be available is an open question.
Clem says that he believes that if the mayor and the City had been willing to compromise more and allow those affected by the annexations to actually vote on them then the people of east Salem would have been happy.