A contentious vote has resulted in victory for those in the small Portland neighborhood of Southwood Park who were vehemently opposed to annexation by nearby Lake Oswego. Initial results from Tuesday’s special election show more than three-fifths of voters cast a ballot against incorporation, putting an end to the city’s bid to grow by roughly 300 households.
Clackamas County officials say the results will not officially be certified until there’s an opportunity for voters to contest four challenged ballots. But with a tally of 240 "no" votes to 145 "yes" votes, the voters’ rebuke of annexation won’t change.
A faction of residents had feared incorporation into the wealthy city next door would cause their property taxes and utility bills to needlessly rise. A neighborhood independence campaign had coalesced in the months preceding the Sept 17. ballot initiative to try and whip up opposition to annexation.
Stacy Askew, 42, said she was “completely blown away” by the turnout. Two-thirds of the neighborhood’s 579 voters submitted ballots.
“When our group came together, we were only 12 people,” said Askew. “That’s it. We were just a couple neighbors that got together and wanted to make sense of the situation.”
Those involved with the campaign had been vocal in their belief that a vote for annexation would price out the neighborhood’s poorest residents. Before the vote, Askew had said she was certain a "yes" vote would inevitably lead to a for-sale sign outside her home.
“For us to win, I can’t even describe to you the relief,” says Askew. “I slept last night and it was the first time I’d slept in months.”
Residents in favor of annexation had been eager for the city’s services, most notably Lake Oswego’s promise of a regular police patrol and access to its new water treatment plant. Southwood Park’s well water system is decades-old and some residents report household appliances that regularly break down with mineral residue.
The City of Lake Oswego had not taken a position on the election. But the city has long had plans to one day annex all six of the unincorporated neighborhoods nearby.
According to Scot Siegel, the planning and building services director for Lake Oswego, the city’s comprehensive plan and a decades old agreement with Clackamas County “commit the city to eventually annexing and providing urban services to these areas.”
But Lake Oswego has held it wants these annexations to be “friendly,” spurred by the neighborhoods involved and the city.
“The city will maintain its policy of friendly annexation,” Siegel wrote in an email. “Our door is always open and we will continue to talk with our neighbors in the unincorporated areas when they express interest in coming into the city."
As for Southwood, Siegel said Lake Oswego has “has no plans to hold another election in the near future.”