B.G. council allows golf course annexation proposal to move forward

Applicants have six months to collect required signatures




BATTLE GROUND — The Battle Ground City Council granted a Brush Prairie golf course owner the go-ahead Monday night to seek the requisite public support to have his business become part of their city.

Applicants seeking to add The Cedars on Salmon Creek golf course to the city narrowly missed gathering the needed number of signatures in August. Now, they are seeking annexation again. This time the application does not include the property of residents of a neighborhood vehemently opposed to the move.

Battle Ground’s council voted 6-1 to accept the initial 10-percent petition brought forth by golf course owner Gordy Jolma, the course’s former owners, Saunders LLC, and a handful of other landowners. Applicants now have six months to gather signatures from owners of 60 percent of the 330-plus acres they are seeking to annex.

In this case, that would mean producing signatures from owners of more than $4.58 million of the land’s $7.64 million total assessed value. Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick would need to certify the petition before the applicants could bring the matter before the council a second time.

Monday’s council meeting held inside City Hall, 109 S.W. First Ave., had an audience of more than 40 people. Mayor Mike Ciraulo told the crowd that before the petition vote came up that state law did not require the city to take public testimony at the 10-percent stage. They would be able to voice their concerns at a later 60-percent petition hearing, Ciraulo said.

“Please don’t force me to clear the room,” the mayor said. There was no audible audience reaction during the council’s vote. Ciraulo, who had a sore throat, turned the meeting over to Deputy Mayor Phil Haberthur after the golf course petition vote.

The golf course petition did not reach the 60-percent hearing the first time applicants sought it, falling fewer than four tenths of a percent short of the signatures needed. Five households on Northeast 149th Avenue proved the difference.

Why the map included those residents, who were steadfast in their opposition to the annexation, remains unclear. Jolma said in an interview with The Columbian last week he had intended to leave them out of the petition.

Residents have previously questioned how Jolma would not know what was on his own petition. They claim Jolma included them to create islands that would make it easier for Battle Ground to annex other areas of The Cedars, which is in Battle Ground’s urban growth boundary. Battle Ground officials have denied any such plot existed.

The issue of neighborhood islands came up again Monday night. Paul Zandamela, the only councilman who opposed the applicants’ petition, and Councilman Chris Regan both expressed misgivings about the potential for islands.

“This will be good for Battle Ground,” Zandamela said. “There’s a lot of money in it. But that’s not the issue here. This issue transcends economics.”

“All of these people who are not happy with it should be listened to,” Zandamela added.

Though Regan expressed similar concerns as Zandamela, his support of property rights and the rights of the petitioner compelled him to vote in favor of the applicants, he said.

The annexation would mutually benefit the city of Battle Ground and the golf course, Jolma said last week.

The city would bring in around $15,000 in property taxes from the annexed land annually and around $10,000 per year from the golf course, Robert Maul, Battle Ground community development director, told the council Monday. He noted police services for the annexed area would run around $3,400 annually.

Meanwhile, the golf course, Jolma said last week, would have the added acclaim of being part of Clark County’s third-largest city, as opposed to an unincorporated area. It would also open the option for Jolma of developing non-golf course property.

Galvanized by the recent annexation push, the Greater Brush Prairie Association has started having informal talks about incorporating the area. The group has not decided whether to seek such a move, spokesman T.J. Klise said last week.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.