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City annexations on hold

The contested annexation of Randy Hager’s east side property has caused The Dalles’ officials to revamp current policy.

City staffers and the planning commission are in the process of defining the word “urbanization,” which will drive future annexations.

Hager contends that a change in policy is necessary because the move to annex his property in January “made no sense.”

“Annexation should occur when the demand on property meets the conditions of the zone,” he said.

The issue rose to the forefront after Hagar was required in September to sign a consent to annex in order to divide his 10th Street property into two lots. He protested that requirement because the city sewer line stops 500 feet from his property, and he is not served by city water.

He questioned why he would be required to pay higher taxes for services he did not receive. In addition, he said none of the neighboring parcels, mostly orchards, would be annexed for decades to come so there was no real justification for the city’s action.

He argued that being forced to sign a consent to annex was akin to forcing property owners to sign a waiver of non-remonstrance, which was banned for residential partitions by a 2013 state law.

The waiver prohibited landowners from protesting future formation of a Local Improvement District, which would assess properties for street work.

Hager’s protests caused the city council in mid-October to direct staff to halt annexation of his property until “ambiguity” in the policy had been addressed.

“It’s frustrating that we kind of ad hoc our way along in this process – I kind of shake my head,” said Mayor Steve Lawrence at that meeting.

Hager told the council that his pending sale of one lot would be held up if the buyer could not be provided with some certainty about the status of the property. He said past sale opportunities had been lost due to the city’s handling of his application for a minor lot partition.

“I want to proceed with the sale and not sit here every Monday night,” he said in frustration.

City staff told Lawrence and council members they have been pursuing a 2006 council goal to annex all properties in the Urban Growth Boundary — the area intended to meet growth needs for the next 20 years — at the first opportunity. Annexation has been triggered in recent years by development applications.

A measure to gain annexation of all these properties at once failed in 2006 when voters living in the UBG voted in opposition by a 77 percent margin, defeating city voters who approved the proposal by a 65 percent margin.

As of September, the city had annexed 973 acres, with almost 242 acres in outlying areas still to be incorporated, according to a staff report.

Nolan Young, city manager, recommended at the Oct. 13 meeting that Hager still sign the annexation consent form. However, if the property hasn’t been incorporated within one year, Young suggested the annexation not take place until urbanization had occurred.

The council decided that term needed to be further defined before any annexation took place.

Hager’s latest issue with the city follows a longstanding dispute over the bill tied to partition of his property into two lots. He was facing a bill of at least $80,000 for infrastructure improvements that included sidewalks and curbs, as well as a retaining wall.

“It would have just bankrupted me, period,” he said.

He and other east end residents sought help from Oregon Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, to get a law passed that eliminated fees, and waivers, in The Dalles for “drawing a line on a map.”

“What I think has occurred out of this lengthy, drawn-out deal is that we’re coming close to articulating a meaning for these policies and how they are followed,” said Hager.

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