Seattle Council Puts North Highline Annexation on Hold; What Will Burien Do?

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by Ralph Nichols

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.”

So, what do YOU think? Please take our Poll or leave a Comment below:

Now that Seattle apparently isn't interested, should Burien move forward with annexing the remaining North Highline area?

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12 Responses to “Seattle Council Puts North Highline Annexation on Hold; What Will Burien Do?”
  1. Jennifer Fichamba says:

    Seattle has made it very clear that they are not intersted in White Center (I’m sorry North Highline). I feel that is in the best interest of North Highline to be annexed by Burien!

    • Burienite says:

      Uh, I think Seattle hasn’t made that clear at all. In fact, they have been interested in “North” North Highline for awhile, and simply because they’re delaying it does not mean they’re NOT interested.

      While the NHUAC and other pro-Burien folks make a compelling argument that Burien is a better choice due to the annexed area being better represented, the same financial reasons that Seattle is citing exist for Burien as well.

      While it may be “nice” for the citizens of the remaining unincorporated to join up with Burien, it is not in Burien’s best interest at this time to pursue an additional annexation so soon after the last one. As another person mentioned, Burien still needs to see how the last annexation will ultimately shake out. Growing too fast could prove very costly for Burien and it could be hard to properly serve the new ( and existing) citizens.

      I suspect that if the economy was better, Seattle would be fully on board with placing the question on the ballott.

      I know it sucks for the affected citizens, but like Seattle, Burien should hold off on any further annexations until the economy gets better and Burien has a better idea where they stand after the most recent annexation.

  2. Ed Dacy says:

    The visoning survey and visioning meetings are a good place for the people of Burien to let the City know their views on this annexation

  3. Tom Harmon says:

    The city of Burien has not even figured out all of the financial consequences of the large annexation that was recently completed. To annex another huge swath of mostly residential area cannot be good for such a small city. If Seattle does not want North Highline, why would Burien?

  4. TcB says:

    It was a mere 40 or 50 years from Burien being the “Southgate” before Southcenter took away the wind from Buriens’ sails. This is about 50 years from now.. White Center could be completely different for the children and childrens children. Stop thinking about next year and think about far into the future.

  5. Len Boscarine says:

    I would like to encourage the Burien City Council to go ahead and annex the rest of the unincorporated North Highline area. The days of Burien being a small town where people knew everybody are long gone. We now have a big city with a lot of diversified neighborhoods and adding the new area won’t make much of difference to our life style. This will be Burien’s only chance to add this area to our city so we can control the development of the North Highline area and prevent Seattle from using the area as a “dumping ground.” I know that many Burien residents like to look down on parts of the North Highline area but in the 25 years that I have lived in Burien I have been impressed at how much progress has been made in cleaning up the area and attracting businesses that generate jobs and taxes.

    • TcB says:

      Actually the people who live there have to choose to join Burien. Burien doesn’t get to annex without permission. Also, the people of Burien should be asked to vote on it separately because it will probably increase costs a little bit.

  6. Eaton B. Verz says:

    The real problem is that our current leaders have a difficult time running what they got. It might be time to look at a different form of city government. Pay the council real wages and make it a full time job.It would attract more qualified candidates. Eliminate the city manager position. Big city size needs big city leadership.

    • Burientie says:

      Be careful what you wish for. Do you really want a “Strong Mayor” form of government, with a defined executive side? I sure don’t. IMO, all it does is add more government buearacracy and red tape.

      The council/manager form of government is just fine by me. Beside, Burien is mostly a contract city, that does not have separate government divisions/departments. Most special purpose taxing district existed LONG before Burien became a city.

      Again, keep the council/manager form of government.

      • Eaton B. Verz says:

        Our city manager is moving Burien away from a contract city. We now have a dysfunctional animal control and our own police force is being discussed. We now have our own road dept. Parks and rec,etc. I don’t mind paying taxes when I get what I pay for. Our current leadership is running on three wheels. I don’t think it would improve by annexing the rest of north highline. I feel we should fix what we have before moving on….IMO

  7. Feraldog says:

    Maybe Burien should just spend some more time putting in effort on what they already have and get that wheel fixed first before taking on more endeavors. Whats the percentage of all that retail space as they call it is being rented right now in the town square? Is there even one? Anybody know? I don`t go down to that part of town often.

  8. M. Bloom says:

    Quite sometime prior to the partial annexation of North Highline, I spoke with a council member and he assured me that Burien would annex the south half of our area and then in a second wave annex the balance of our small community. I WANT to be part of Burien… I shop in Burien, my medical care in in Burien… my job is in Burien. I FEEL part of Burien… why would I want to be part of Seattle?? Come on Burien step up, let’s go!

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