Cedars annex proposal might need mulligan

Golf course’s current, former owners shy of needed signatures

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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A controversial annexation proposal involving a Brush Prairie golf course appears in need of a mulligan.

Applicants seeking to make The Cedars on Salmon Creek golf course part of the city of Battle Ground do not have the necessary number of signatures at this point to bring the matter before the council, Clark County officials said.

Gordy Jolma, the golf course’s owner, and Bill Saunders, the course’s former owner, have sought to move their land and five neighboring homes on Northeast 149th Avenue in the Cedars neighborhood into the city. The homeowners and other Cedars residents oppose the annexation.

The applicants needed signatures from people who own 60 percent of the market value of the proposed annexation area to bring the matter before the Battle Ground City Council for a scheduled Aug. 15 vote. Jolma and Saunders are less than a percentage point short, with 59.64 percent of the $10.3 million market value.

The Clark County commissioners could have put the applicants over the top, but they chose Wednesday not to sign the petition for 81 acres of county-owned land within the annexation boundary.

The Aug. 15 hearing on the matter will be postponed, Battle Ground City Manager John Williams said.

The petition signatures the applicants received are good for six months. If they are able to get one additional signature the applicants could then seek a 60 percent certification from Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick and a hearing before the Battle Ground City Council.

Barring that unforeseen turn of events the applicants would have to re-apply for annexation.

Restarting the process would require a new annexation map and signatures from people owning 10 percent of the annexed area before an initial council vote. Such a map would likely not include Northeast 149th Avenue, predicted Robert Maul, the Battle Ground community development director.

“This hasn’t been the cleanest application we’ve received,” Maul said. “I suspect if they re-apply it wouldn’t include those five residents.”

The proposed annex sparked controversy last month when Brush Prairie residents argued the applicants reconfigured the map to receive the necessary amount of signatures to move forward with the annexation and make it easier in the future to annex the entire neighborhood. Cedars residents objected to the move because they said city officials failed to explain how the move would benefit them and applicants failed to explain their motivation for the annexation.

Residents feared Jolma’s and Saunders’ property value would make their opposition moot. That does not seem to be the case now.

How the applicants intend to obtain the remaining percentage point or whether they will take a different route remains to be seen. Jolma did not return multiple phone calls this week.

Cedars resident Eldon Dehaan said he expected the applicants to design a new annexation map. Dehaan said the other four homeowners on Northeast 149th Avenue were firmly against the annex proposal.

“I think they’ll find a different way but they will have to file a new petition to do it,” Dehaan said. He added, “I don’t look for the city or the golf course to change their long-term strategy.”

The Battle Ground City Council does not actively pursue areas to annex, Deputy Mayor Phil Haberthur said in an interview earlier this month.

Dehaan questioned this statement. He called the attempt to annex five homes on Northeast 149th Avenue a “savvy move” politically because it opened the door for islands to be created, where unincorporated parcels are surrounded by city limits. Once islands are created, it would be easier for the city to annex the entire neighborhood, Dehaan said.

Maul doubted the council, based on its past performance, would annex whole areas opposed to such a move.

Clark County commissioners also expressed doubts about the wisdom of creating “doughnut holes” in the map.

“The roads would go from the county to the city to the county and back and forth,” Commissioner Marc Boldt said.

Cedars residents are currently in Battle Ground’s urban growth area and use the city’s sewer system. For this reason, Battle Ground Mayor Mike Ciraulo has said the Cedars neighborhood will become part of the city “sooner or later.”