Today, Burien Grew By 45%, And Is Now Larger Than Olympia (No Foolin')

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by Ralph Nichols

Years of tumult and shouting, planning and study fade into the past today (April 1) as the southern part of the North Highline unincorporated area officially becomes part of the City of Burien.

Now called “North Burien,” the newly annexed area adds more than 14,000 residents and hundreds of business to the city – making Burien the 21st largest city in Washington, surpassing Olympia. Until today, Burien was the state’s 31st largest city with a population of around 31,000.

Although no special ceremony to mark the occasion is scheduled for today, North Burien residents will be welcomed into the city at a reception at 6:30 p.m. Monday (April 5) preceding the regular city council meeting.

In the meantime, at least one of three billboards went up around Burien this week welcoming the city’s new residents in several languages.

And City Manager Mike Martin will give a presentation updating the annexation process at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at the North Highline Fire Station, which is located at 1243 SW 112th Street.

Annexation is expected to be a largely seamless process for North Burien residents, who likely won’t notice major changes as they become part of the city.

Voters in the southern part of the North Highline unincorporated area approved annexation by Burien by a sizable margin last Aug. 18. But their gradual march toward becoming part of the city really began in 1993 with the incorporation of Burien.

Left out of the new city, however, were neighborhoods to the north that were considered an “organic” part of the larger Highline community. Following incorporation, many residents of the remaining unincorporated area looked forward to eventually becoming part of Burien.

Likewise, many city residents – including a number of city council members over the intervening years – began the long march toward “reunification” with these neighborhoods through annexation.

By 2006, annexation had become a contentious “front-burner” issue. A minority of unincorporated area residents wanted nothing to do with Burien, arguing that their property values would increase more if they became part of Seattle, which would also provide better services.

One of the new billboards is located at Ambaum Blvd. and SW 116th.

And some Burien residents, highly vocal in their opposition to annexation, claimed the city could not afford its associated additional costs, and that bringing in “White Center” would cause crime to increase.

In early 2008, the Burien City Council designated all of North Highline a “potential annexation area.” Seattle lawmakers countered a few weeks later by claiming the same area. Eventually, Burien advanced a memorandum of understanding between the city, Seattle and King County that proposed a solution to the competing annexation claims.

When Seattle didn’t sign the memorandum of understanding, Burien acted alone to put the annexation process into motion. But Burien did back away from annexing all of the unincorporated area, deciding instead to propose for the immediate future annexation of only the southern part of North Highline.

North Highline residents finally got their say at the polls following months of open houses, neighborhood informational meetings and heated debates.

Since the vote for annexation, Burien city staff has been working on a wide range of transitional issues, most notably planning and zoning designations and renegotiating the contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police coverage of North Burien.

The city has applied existing Burien zoning classifications most comparable with the old King County zoning to the annexation area.

Some 1,250 businesses there have been notified by the city that they must obtain Burien business licenses and will be assessed the city’s business and occupation tax.

Fire, sewer and water service and Highline District schools will not be affected by annexation.

Burien City Council members have consistently assured residents of “old” Burien that annexation will be revenue neutral. Contributing to this financial goal will be about $700,000 a year the city will get through a state sales tax credit to help pay for services in the annexation area.

And a special census of all North Burien housing units – separate from the 2010 federal census – is underway to ensure the city receives its full share of federal and state funds for providing essential public services.

City lawmakers have also been reaching out to North Burien residents, telling them Burien will be more responsive to their concerns, and will provide them with greater opportunity to become involved in the local government process, than King County has done in the past.

The City has set up a special website here that has more information about its new neighborhood, including specifics for businesses.

Here are other relevant links:

[EDITOR’S NOTE: On this historic day, we at The B-Town Blog welcome all of our new residents, and hope we can provide our relevant services of timely Local News, Events, Arts, Entertainment and more to all of our new neighbors. If you have any ideas for this website, please feel free to email us!]

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3 Responses to “Today, Burien Grew By 45%, And Is Now Larger Than Olympia (No Foolin')”
  1. Ed Dacy says:

    With the annexation being a done deal, I think everyone hopes this will be successful for ALL of of Burien

  2. Chris says:

    Welcome new residents of B-Town! Glad to have you!

  3. Gorfsnopple says:

    Let’s see what kind of drain on the budget this is going to be…

    Annexing in a recession…that’s a pretty ballsy move.

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