Annexation is the process of transferring land from one jurisdiction to another. This includes accommodating a county’s unincorporated areas into adjacent incorporated areas—commonly known as cities and towns.
What this means in Pierce County is that places like Tacoma, Puyallup, Lakewood, or Gig Harbor would expand their city boundaries to include properties, businesses and residents currently lying outside of those cities.
Of the 876,000 people that live in Pierce County, over 370,000 people reside outside of any city or town—comprising a population greater than the City of Tacoma. As such, the question of annexation is an important issue facing Pierce County.
- Encourage the annexation of adjacent unincorporated urban areas by the neighboring city or town, and identify such areas as potential annexation areas or potential incorporation areas.
- Highly prioritize the annexation of unincorporated islands.
In Pierce County, annexation of unincorporated urban areas is expected by the State of Washington and encouraged by local and regional governments. Further, the County has placed a high priority on annexing unincorporated areas that are completely or nearly bordered on all sides by cities and towns—called unincorporated “islands.”
Including urbanized areas within existing cities or towns allows for more efficient provision of services, greater access to those municipal services, and stronger connections to decisions that affect one’s community.
Understandably, people may be concerned that annexation might increase costs, worsen public services or lead to an increase in crime. Ensuring these issues are discussed, considered and addressed is important to Pierce County, which is why public involvement is emphasized throughout the annexation process. And because the community fabric is bound by people, places and relationships, rather than by legal boundaries, the change associated with a redrawing of those boundaries is rarely disruptive.
To find out more about the kind of the changes that occurred with past annexations, refer to this FAQ from the City of Bonney Lake.
Annexation may occur many ways, whether by voter referendum, petition or ordinance by the County Council and the applicable city council. No matter the method, residents, property owners, members of the public, and other stakeholders will have opportunities for participation and involvement as part of any annexation proposal.
For information on annexation by voter referendum, visit the Pierce County Boundary Review webpage.