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LETTER: Burien Comp. Plan Changes Raise Many Questions And Concerns

Read through the proposed changes to the Burien Comp plan, outlined in the Planning Commission packet of Oct 12 [1] (see pages 4 – 10, especially sections 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6). It raises many questions and concerns. What are the overall risks? Are there some hidden agendas that are going to end up costing everyone in Highline? What are the contingencies if the rosy scenarios turn out not to be true? Hopefully on Oct 26, the Planning Commission will ask some very hard questions, not just rubber-stamp the proposal.

First, these changes appear to give free reign to any public entity, such as the Port, to acquire land for any purpose anywhere in the City of Burien. Not just a traditional public purposes, but “any” purpose that meets the wishes of the public entity. Think about this. When property is bought, it goes off the tax rolls, reducing revenues to the Highline School District at a time when school revenue is already declining. Taking property off the tax rolls also makes it more difficult to issue future school construction bonds.

Second, one wonders if there’s some hidden agenda or side deal going on.

Usually, comp plans drive zoning. Usually, zoning is carefully structured so it is not in conflict with a comp plan. Here, the opposite seems to be the case: zoning is driving the Comp Plan. Isn’t this troubling? One wonders what else the Burien City Council was not informed of when it passed Ordinances 528 [2] and 529 [3] in Dec 2009.

528 is a comp plan amendment. It created two designations, AI and PR, and some other elements related to the Comp Plan. 529 specifically relates to NERA zoning. Note item 6, related to adult entertainment, and item 7, about cargo containers, as well as many other things.

Third, read the history section. “In 2003 the third runway …”. I’ve seen that type of language before. It reads just like the phony history and junk data the Port always uses to justify its goals and agendas. That paragraph is particularly odious because so much is missing.

For example, it completely ignores the reality that many residents still live in the area. Also it overlooks the reality of pollution in the Lora Lake area. Is this on purpose?

Wishful thinking won’t make the pollution magically disappear. So why surrender any mention of SEPA and EIS for the NERA area in the comp plan? If one does believe this is only about changes to a comp plan to make it comply with zoning (with no hidden agendas at all), one could ask what section of the zoning code does having SEPA and an EIS conflict with?

Wouldn’t nearby residents and the children and adults who use Moshier Field and who are at nearby Highline High School and the Sunnydale site like to know they have as much protection against air and water pollution as possible?

One also wonders what the real story is about secured sex offender housing and adult entertainment. Also, the Comp Plan has both zoning and design standards in place. Who will set design standards?

As bad as all this is, I can actually think of a worse aspect. There are persistent rumors Port staffers that a fourth runway would be north of 518. This could well be an east – west runway, and it would include property now a part of the City of Burien. By removing controls for buyout areas, the city appears to be smoothing the way for the Port to do this. The language removing SEPA and EIS would apply both to the Lora Lake contaminated area and to new buyout areas, such as the fourth runway site.

There are so many mysteries and unknowns in this Comp Plan revision. It deserves a great deal of scrutiny, citizen discussion and review about the risks, uncertainties and real long-term costs, impacts, beneficiaries and losers.

– Stuart Jenner

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