Upper Palo Alto majority wants into District 3

Upper Palo Alto Road may no longer be a no-man's-land after an annexation petition was signed Sept. 3.

Earlier this year, Clallam County Fire District 3 announced it would no longer provide service to the upper section of Palo Alto Road because it was never included into its coverage area, which is taxed annually to fund the department.

All governmental agencies are restricted from gifting services funded by the public's money, which includes providing fire and paramedic response to homes south of the 5400 block of Palo Alto Road because those lots have not been taxed for service.

However, after a Fire District 3 commission meeting last week, it seems owners of the majority of land in the area are willing to annex into the fire district.

"We needed 60 percent of the land base to be represented in a petition, which we received last Wednesday," said Fire District 3 Chief Steve Vogel, indicating he has received signatures representing 65 percent of the land base.

The last landowner to sign, one who owns a substantial amount of land in the area, held off to make sure others in the area wanted to be part of the district because his signature would make or break the deal.

So with more than 50 percent of the people in the area on board, he signed up for annexation Sept. 3. The other landowners' property made up about 21 percent of the land base.

"It's a big load off my mind. I didn't want to be in a situation to not allow our guys to respond to an emergency because of the law," Vogel said after the meeting. "Now we are within the letter of the law and the people in the upper Palo Alto area are on track to becoming part of the district."

Next, the fire commissioners must adopt a formal resolution recognizing the petition. Then the district will run announcements in newspapers, notices of a pending annexation in the area and hold a public hearing to discuss the land's inclusion into Fire District 3 by the commissioners.

"After we get the commissioners' acceptance of the annexation, we create a (State Environmental Policy Act) review of environmental impacts, which is a standard in any action like this, and we take the whole thing to the county's boundary review board," Vogel said. "If that body accepts the annexation, it becomes official."

At the beginning of this summer, the commissioners set a deadline of September for the neighborhood to become annexed, otherwise it would be considered a no-man's-land.

Vogel said as long as the commissioners recognize the annexation, he will be able to continue to provide the service the district has brought to the area for more than 26 years without charge.

If annexed, the new annual fee assessed to the property owners would be about $1.36 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. A $300,000 home on land would be charged $408 per year.

Vogel said he hopes to get the annexation wrapped up as soon as possible, perhaps by the end of September.

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