BATTLE GROUND — The absence of two Battle Ground City Council members led to confusion Monday when a majority of councilors accidentally voted not to approve a plan to annex land beyond the west edge of the city, even though a majority of them supported it.
By a 3-to-2 decision, the council voted not to approve a long-proposed 264-acre annexation of land bounded by West Main Street to the south, Northeast 92nd Avenue to the west, Northeast 239th Street to the north and the existing city limits to the east.
Mayor Lisa Walters and Councilman Mike Ciraulo were absent from the meeting.
The councilors who voted against the annexation had intended to pass a motion tabling the ordinance until a meeting attended by Ciraulo.
But a motion to table the ordinance was never presented.
So councilors Bill Ganley and Adrian Cortes voted for the annexation, while Alex Reinhold; Philip Johnson; and Shane Bowman, the deputy mayor filling in for Walters, voted against it.
The attempt to table the motion happened specifically because Ciraulo was not at the meeting. He had previously criticized his council colleagues for passing a controversial ordinance at a meeting he didn't attend, and some councilors said they feared he would do the same if they conducted business in his absence.
"I'm voting 'no' because I don't want another whiny, sniveling letter in the paper again," Reinhold said, referring to a letter councilors Cortes and Ciraulo published in two local papers that was critical of the council passing a July ordinance tweaking how the council appoints the mayor.
Council meetings since the publication of the letter have been tense; at one meeting last month, Johnson lambasted Ciraulo and Cortes for writing the letter and leveling allegations that councilors were colluding behind closed doors.
Community Development Director Robert Maul informed councilors after the vote that they had actually voted against the annexation.
"At this point, you just killed it," he said.
He explained the annexation had already been heavily vetted by the city leading up to the ordinance. That included having a super-majority of property owners on board with the plan, as required by state law.
The city typically passes annexation ordinances after public hearings, he said.
With the annexation, Maul said, the city would be able to ensure the area develops in line with the city's comprehensive plan.
The proposed annexation area is sparsely populated -- its 33 homes sit on large lots, occupied by 96 people -- with room to grow. The unincorporated area also falls under a reciprocal policing agreement between the Battle Ground Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff's Office, meaning officers with the city are already dispatched there from time to time.
"If you annex the way it is today, you're looking at negligible costs," Maul said.
Annexation is one way a city can bring new properties into the fold and boost tax revenue. The area the city is annexing has twice been proposed since 2002.
The council will have an opportunity to correct its procedural mistake as early as Nov. 4.