Burien City Council Will Not Pursue White Center Annexation. For Now.

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by Ralph Nichols

Burien City Council members decided on Monday (March 22) not to adopt at this time a resolution declaring the city’s interest in eventually annexing the remaining North Highline Unincorporated Area.

The southern unincorporated area in North Highline will officially be annexed by Burien on April 1.

On March 8, council members directed City Manager Mike Martin to draft a resolution clarifying Burien’s intentions regarding the remaining unincorporated area.

That resolution – proposed in part as a response to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s expressed support for the annexation by Seattle of the remaining unincorporated area – concluded:

“The [Burien] City Council intends to advance an annexation in ‘Area Y’ [north North Highline] as soon as reasonably possible after successfully incorporating ‘Area X’ [south North Highline].”

And with Seattle eyeing north North Highline, several residents there had implored Burien lawmakers to signal an interest in eventually annexing them so they would have the hope of an alternative to annexation by Seattle.

But last Friday (March 19), McGinn and the Seattle City Council decided to delay annexation of the White Center area and parts of the Top Hat and Boulevard Park areas until at least 2011 because paying for services there would be to expensive at this time.

This, Burien council members decided at Monday’s meeting, rendered the matter moot for the foreseeable future.

“Given ever-changing events,” Councilman Gordon Shaw observed, “the necessity for us to express an interest in this area at this time no longer exists … When I spoke at the last meeting, I said Seattle’s timetable or King County’s timetable would not affect my timetable, and that is still my position.

The intent of this resolution was to let north North Highline residents know they have an alternative to becoming part of Seattle, Shaw said. “I think we do want them … but it has to make sense for Burien.”

He said there is a lot of studying to do before that answer will be known.

Councilwoman Kathy Keene noted the proposed resolution “was originally designed to be a response to Seattle’s motion” to annex north North Highline. “But Seattle has put that off for a year, maybe two.”

Concurring was Councilman Jack Block Jr., who said when it is timely for Burien to declare an expression of interest in the remaining North Highline Unincorporated Area, the resolution can be re-introduced.

A motion to approve the resolution was withdrawn, ending the discussion.

The meeting began with almost an hour of public comment from both Burien and North Highline residents speaking on both sides of this contentious issue, with more opposing any additional annexation than supporting it.

A number accused the council of a breach of trust. Some said the cost is too high – using figures from the Seattle City Council meeting that Mayor Joan McGilton disputed. Others suggested that annexing north North Highline not only would be the best for that area but for Burien as well.

Introduced by the Burien Business and Economic Development Partnership was a list of seven milestones for the city to meet before it considers annexing the remaining unincorporated area.

The milestones are:

  • Successful incorporation of [south North Highline] (partial annexation approved by the voters on August 18, 2009) into the City of Burien.
  • Development of a new vision statement for Burien given changes in the city’s geographic boundary and population size and distribution.
  • Completion of a new comprehensive assessment of the total operational and capital costs of annexing the remainder of North Highline … including an evaluation of a revenue neutral option.
  • A full build out of the Town Center project.
  • Achievement of sufficient occupancy rates for retail, commercial and industrial space on 1st Avenue, on 152nd and 153rd Streets, on Ambaum Boulevard and in the Northeast Planning Area.
  • Meeting full performance funding for basic public services (e.g., police, roads, parks and community programs) in Burien and [south North Highline].
  • A public vote by the residents of Burien and [south North Highline] endorsing the Council’s consideration of additional North Highline annexation options.

Comments by citizens to Burien council members on this annexation issue will be posted later today.

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