by Ralph Nichols 
Itâ€™s been a long time coming â€“ years of meetings, studies, surveys, and wars of words â€“ but in less than three weeks residents of the southern part of the North Highline unincorporated area finally will have their say on the following question:
â€œShall that area of unincorporated King County known as the North Highline South Annexation Area as legally described in City of Burien Resolution No. 292 be annexed to the City of Burien?â€
A simple majority vote in the Aug. 18th primary election for this ballot measure, King County Proposition 1, will bring approximately 1,700 more acres into the city, increasing its population by some 14,100 residents.
The south part of the North Highline unincorporated area that will become part of Burien if annexation is approved is defined by a zigzag line that extends west to east along Southwest 112th Street in north Shorewood, South 116th Street, South 112th Street, and South 107th Street in Boulevard Park, ending at Tukwila:
Much of Beverly Park and Boulevard Park, including the Rainier Golf and Country Club, will be absorbed by Burien. Left in the remaining unincorporated area between Burien and Seattle will be the North Highline fire station, Evergreen High School and Pool, and the Top Hat neighborhood.
The August primary will mark King Countyâ€™s first all mail-in election. Ballots were mailed by the county elections office on Wednesday (July 29th). State law requires a simple majority vote of residents in an area designated for annexation before the merger can take effect. Residents of the annexing city do not vote on the question.
A community informational meeting on annexation will be held August 6 (Thursday) from 6:30 to 8 p.m.  at Boulevard Park Baptist Church, 11659 First Ave. S. â€“ the last scheduled public forum on the issue before the election.
Burien City Manager Mike Martin, responding to questions posed recently by the B-Town Blog, said the City Council has supported this partial annexation of the unincorporated area because it will unite historic neighborhoods, and because Burien is smaller than Seattle â€“ which at one time also considered annexing North Highline â€“ it will give annexed residents a more responsive city government.
â€œI am the one who first proposed the idea that we reunite neighborhoodsâ€ through annexation, Burien Deputy Mayor Rose Clark added. Just as the city and the North Highline area are both part of the Highline School District, â€œthey were part of our community even before we were a city.â€
But, argues Mark Ufkes, president of the White Center Homeowners Association and a member of White Center Residents for a Secure Future, â€œBurien is the least best choiceâ€ for North Highline. Although Ufkes lives one block north of the proposed annexation area, he says if it becomes part of Burien the value of his property will be impacted.
Property taxes are about the same in both Burien and Seattle, â€œbut you get so much more (services) in Seattle, and a Seattle address is a very positive asset to home values,â€ he says. â€œWe will lose our legal Seattle address with annexation to Burien.â€
And, Ufkes claims, â€œBurien doesnâ€™t have the resources for our complex community,â€ from public safety to social services. â€œAnnexation is supposed to make our lives better. If it doesnâ€™t, then annexation is not a good thing.â€
He adds that, in three years of monitoring Burienâ€™s annexation process, â€œnot once have I heard anyone say that annexation is about North Highline. Itâ€™s about Burien â€¦ in reality.â€
But Greg Duff, new president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, says with less than a month before the election, â€œit looks very goodâ€ for annexation. â€œFrom surveys that weâ€™ve done, people want to annex to Burienâ€¦.
â€œWeâ€™re really not hearing much opposition. The people opposed donâ€™t want annexation because they have property to sell and they think that by going to Seattle property will increase in value, which is ridiculous.â€
Duff suggests, â€œIt is better to be a part of Burien because we will have a bigger voice in government â€“ 14,500 people will have a much stronger voice in Burien with a (current) population of about 30,000, than in Seattle with a population of more than 500,000.â€
And, he continues, â€œIâ€™d much rather have Mike Martin and the Burien City Council as my governing body than (Mayor) Greg Nickels and the Seattle City Council. Mike wanted to annex North Highline from the beginning, regardless of whether the Legislature provided funds for annexation. But Nickels wavered. He was after money from the Legislature, it was not about the people.â€
Two other key reasons that Duff says support annexation by Burien are, â€œI donâ€™t want to be part of all the silly rules and regulations in Seattle like the tax on plastic bags,â€ and â€œSeattle sees the south end of King County as the slums â€¦ I really feel thatâ€™s the way (Nickels) feels.â€
He believes annexation by Burien â€œwill be a simple transitionâ€ and that the city can provide all services needed by its new residents despite opponentsâ€™ claims to the contrary.
More information about the proposed annexation, both pro and con, is available in the King County Voters Guide, which can be accessed online here .
Martin notes that if annexation is approved by North Highline votes, the area wonâ€™t become part of Burien overnight. â€œWe will have a lot of work to doâ€¦. Itâ€™s not like the vote takes place on August 18 and annexation happens on the 19th.â€
Burien city staff will have to do â€œa whole lot of work in betweenâ€ to reach out incorporate the annexed area. He thinks the annexed part of North Highline officially would become part of the city â€œprobably in March.â€
Proposals to annex North Highline have generated controversy in both Burien and North Highline â€“ and between Burien and Seattle after Nickels claimed the White Center area and beyond for his city â€“ ever since Countywide Planning Policies, a regional offshoot of Washingtonâ€™s Growth Management Act, called for King Countyâ€™s unincorporated urban areas to be included in cities by 2012.â€¨â€¨The county also targeted North Highline for annexation in 2003 in the wake of the first in a succession of severe budget shortfalls, and offered financial assistance to cities that annex unincorporated urban areas.
In 2006, Burien, Seattle and King County agreed to work cooperatively for annexation of the entire unincorporated area by one or both cities. But despite their Memorandum of Understanding to resolve the issue, Seattle never responded to offers by Burien to settle competing claims on North Highline. This inaction led Burien to adopt independently early last year its plan to annex the south part of the unincorporated area.
Seattle objected to Burienâ€™s annexation plan and challenged it before the Boundary Review Board. Following a public hearing in March, the board formally approved Burienâ€™s request on April 16th.
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