Brush Prairie residents weigh incorporation

Asphalt plant, plan to annex Cedars fuel interest

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The Greater Brush Prairie Neighborhood Association’s battle cry in this month’s newsletter is “control our destiny.”

Attempts to build an asphalt plant and annex a golf course and residential homes from the unincorporated area have convinced some residents that the only way to retain control is to form a city. The annexation saga, in particular, served as a wake-up call, said Robyn Kim, vice president of the neighborhood association.

“It kind of sent a message to us that we don’t have control over our destiny,” Kim said. “By forming a city we would gain control of our destiny.”

The neighborhood association will hold a meeting Saturday night at the Clark County Fire District 3 fire station, 17718 N.E. 159th St., to gauge incorporation interest among Brush Prairie residents. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Clark County has not had a new city incorporated since Battle Ground in 1951. The last incorporation attempt happened in the Salmon Creek/Hazel Dell area in 1997, according to Tim Likness, Clark County’s elections supervisor. The measure received only 34 percent of the vote and was rejected.

Unincorporated areas seeking incorporation face several tough decisions, such as who will lead, where the tax base will come from and whether the city will provide police, fire and other services or pay outside agencies, said Curt Wyrick, former deputy prosecutor for Clark County. He recommended any community hire someone to do an incorporation study, if it is serious about becoming a city.

Calls for incorporation usually stem from a “fear factor … or a can do it better factor,” Wyrick said. “It depends on how many people feel that way.”

There is no estimate yet on how large an incorporated Brush Prairie could be, Kim said. Boundaries and population estimates would come later. The neighborhood association sends its newsletter to 2,400 homes, Kim noted, adding Hockinson could join incorporated Brush Prairie.

Before an incorporation election can take place, Brush Prairie would have to follow an involved process that starts with filing a notice proposing incorporation with the county. Such a notice has not yet been filed, county officials said, but Saturday’s meeting could be a launching pad for an incorporation campaign, neighborhood association members said.

From there, Brush Prairie would need to have the county review its boundaries and then receive signatures from 10 percent of the people living in those boundaries. Once that petition is successful, the measure would advance to a ballot, where it would need at least 50 percent to become incorporated.

Brush Prairie residents previously held informal talks about incorporation when Lakeside Industries bought land in Brush Prairie with the intent of building an asphalt plant. After strong resistance from residents, the company has yet to build the plant.

More recently, Brush Prairie residents were put on alert when Gordy Jolma, owner of The Cedars on Salmon Creek golf course, and the course’s former owners, the Saunders family, sought to annex his property along with that of five residential homes on Northeast 149th Street. Jolma and the Saunders family narrowly missed receiving signatures from owners of 60 percent of the property value on the annexation map.

“There’s a strong sentiment here that people don’t want to be part of Battle Ground,” said Mark Gawecki of Brush Prairie’s annexation resistance committee. “Ideally, we’d like to stay the way we are, unincorporated in Clark County.”

While they dodged the recent annexation proposal, that does not mean Cedars residents would be able to join Brush Prairie. The Cedars is part of Battle Ground’s urban growth boundary, and is thus not eligible to become part of an incorporated Brush Prairie, said Robert Maul, Battle Ground’s community development director.

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