Burien City Council Holds Special Meeting; Actual Annexation Projected For Spring 2010

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by Ralph Nichols

Burien Mayor Joan McGilton began a special City Council meeting on annexation Monday night (Aug. 24th) by rolling out the welcome mat for 14,100 North Highline residents who will become part of the city early next year.

Councilwoman Kathy Keene, observing the “long, hard fight” to bring the south part of the North Highline unincorporated area into Burien is over, added, “We just want to assure everybody that it will be a seamless transition and a welcoming transition,”

Sally Nelson, a city council member since Burien incorporated in 1993, said, “We feel like you’re one of us now. We’ve erased that line (dividing the city from the neighborhood immediately to the north) and we have a new line and we hope someday to erase that line too.”

City Manager Mike Martin said these future city residents will “see no changes until annexation actually occurs,” which is expected to happen in late March or early April. Even then, he continued, “they will not see substantial changes” unless services are enhanced.

With 2,472 ballots cast in last week’s primary election counted through Monday, 55.91 percent (1,363) of registered voters in the North Highline annexation area favored becoming part of Burien in last week’s primary election, while 44.09 percent (1.075) opposed the merger. The current total represents 38.72 percent of voters in that area.

“We do not consider this to be a mandate, but it certainly is a very strong showing,” Martin told council members. “We want to thank everyone who was involved, and they are legion … there was a lot of heavy lifting that went on here” in the months leading up to the vote. He extended special thanks to the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council “for their steadfastness” in support of annexation.

When annexation becomes official, Burien will be the 21st largest city in Washington with a population of about 45,000. Currently the city ranks 31st in the state. The annexation area extends north from South/Southwest 128th Street to a line that zigzags 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 the new Burien city limits and Seattle will be the North Highline fire station, Evergreen High School and Pool, and the Top Hat neighborhood.

Martin noted that after a lengthy telephone conversation with interim King County Executive Kurt Triplett, “it appears extremely unlikely that any (county) parks in our annexation area will be shut down.” Triplett has proposed closing 39 parks in unincorporated areas to help balance the county’s budget next year. Five of these parks are in the annexation area.

The city’s contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office will be modified to hire more deputies as city police officers, many of whom already work in North Highline. All special districts – fire, water, sewer, library, and Highline schools – will continue to provide services in the newly annexed area without interruption or change, Martin added.

Council members also encouraged residents of the North Highline annexation area to become involved with their new city government now. Councilwoman Rose Clark invited them “to come to council meetings” and to offer comments. “I encourage that. We need all the advice we can get.”

McGilton reminded them that they “can come to (advisory) commission meetings and participate” both before and after annexation takes place, even if they are not commission members. “You do not have to be at the table” to contribute.

Following a lengthy discussion, council members backed away from a proposed ordinance to allow North Highline annexation area residents to become members of the Arts, Parks and Recreation, and Planning commissions before they become part of the city.

Planning Commission member Jim Clingan reminded lawmakers that city policy has been to have no geographic preference for council positions and commission memberships. To make this exception now could result in preferential treatment, he cautioned.

Councilman Gordon Shaw and McGilton, who agreed there should be no geographic preference, noted the council’s normal process is to invite applications for membership on these commissions in January, review them in February, and appoint new members in March – about the time the annexation area will become part of Burien.

The council directed staff to draft a new ordinance, relating to participation on city commissions by residents of the annexation area on city commissions, that states they can apply for membership on commissions before joining Burien.

During public comment, North Highline resident Karen Veloria told council members, “I wanted us to go to Seattle … but I’m now in Burien. That’s OK with me. I’m willing to work with you all.”

Another North Highline resident, Richard Beaubelle, told them, “I pledge to assist in making this a smooth transition.”

Burien resident Cherisse Luxa added, “I’m so proud of the people in the south part of North Highline for choosing to become part of Burien.” Extending her welcome, Luxa said, “I can not wait until north North Highline” also becomes part of the city.

Liz Giba of North Highline exclaimed, “I can’t wait until we become part of Burien.” She said she will keep on working on annexing the rest of North Highline into the city “and will remain hopeful.”

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