Seattle Council Puts North Highline Annexation on Hold; What Will Burien Do?
Will Burien begin moving toward annexation of the remaining North Highline unincorporated area in the next few months?
While there is no answer to such speculation at this time, things appear to be starting to line up in that direction.
A Seattle Budget Office report, submitted to that city’s council members in January, concluded that Seattle’s “current and future financial reality … make the decision to annex [unincorporated North Highline] difficult to contemplate” for 2011 and 2012.”
And Monday (March 28), the Seattle City Council voted 8-1 to put the annexation question on hold until February 2012.
Between these two events, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council sent a letter, signed by council President Christine Waldman, to Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin, urging Seattle not to proceed with annexation.
“Seattle is a fine city with much to offer and we truly appreciate your interest in us,” Waldman wrote to Conlin in the March 8 letter.
“Yet we strongly believe that Seattle is a bad fit for our community, and that our interests will be better served with other options. We urge you not to advance an election on the question of annexation of North Highline.”
Residents of the unincorporated area are “concerned about having our voice – the voice of one of the most diverse communities in the state – lost in the clamor of the largest city in the state,” she noted.
The “other options” referred to by Waldman likely narrow down, in reality, to one: annexation by Burien.
Monday’s action included an amendment, introduced by City Councilman Nick Licata, which clarifies Seattle’s position as it relates to Burien during the 10-month delay.
Their vote to postpone a decision on annexing North Highline “is not intended to block or obstruct the city of Burien from pursuing annexation … should the city of Burien decide to do so” in the meantime, the Licata amendment said.
Councilmember Jean Godden voted no because North Highline is “a prize” and Seattle should keep its options open despite being unable to afford annexing the area at this time.
Seattle’s financial quandary was underscored by Conlin who, while agreeing that North Highline represents an opportunity for his city, said “I think we’re taking into account the challenges that we face in the future.”
In the end, however, regardless of which city council acts to annex North Highline, it will be the unincorporated area residents who approve or reject annexation in an election.
Updating Burien City Council members on this latest annexation development at their March 28 meeting, City Manager Mike Martin reminded them about an agreement negotiated in early 2008, which said Burien would annex “south” North Highline, leaving the remaining area for Seattle to annex if that city chose to act.
It was, in essence, a “gentlemen’s agreement,” since it was signed by Burien but not by Seattle, Martin noted. Since then, Seattle has taken to steps toward annexing North Highline.
Yet during this time, “south” North Highline residents approved annexation by Burien in a 2009 election and became part of the city – North Burien – on April 1, 2010.
Monday’s action “came just short of encouraging the City of Burien to annex North Highline” by stating that Seattle “would not obstruct a Burien effort to annex if the City of Burien wanted to move forward,” he added.
“We’re going to think about it more … there likely will be a lot of communication between the staffs” of Burien and Seattle “to see what all this means.”
Martin, who told Burien City Council members that he will update them in April on how the North Burien annexation is working out, said “the short message is it’s doing very well.”
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