Council Responds To North Highline Annexation Concerns, Explains Process

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: When we first posed the question Is Burien Trying To ‘Fast-Track’ The Annexation Of North Highline? based on a letter written by Burien Mayor Joan McGilton, we did so as a public service to our fellow residents, whom we feel should be more informed of what their elected lawmakers are doing.]

by Ralph Nichols

It was, if you remember The Music Man, a little like the arrival of a pool table in River City.

As word of a letter written by Mayor Joan McGilton, which makes direct reference to a possible Burien annexation of unincorporated North Highline, surfaced late last week, a wave of angst swiftly swept through downtown Burien.

McGilton wrote that letter – a public document – to King County Library System trustees on May 27, urging them to delay any decision about the future of the two North Burien libraries until the city council resolves in the next 60 days the annexation issue. The B-Town Blog posted the letter on Friday, June 3rd – read it here – and asked its Readers if they thought the city was considering ‘fast-tracking’ annexation within 60 days, as the letter implied.

Library system Director Bill Ptacek has, for two years, pushed for consolidation of the White Center and Boulevard Park libraries into a new building that would be located between the two neighborhoods, somewhat farther south of Burien’s northern limit.

Ptacek based his proposal for library consolidation on the possible annexation of North Highline by Seattle until Seattle backed away from doing so earlier this year. Since then, he has claimed that a new facility needs to be built now because of current favorable construction costs.

The instant reaction to McGilton’s letter appears to have been much ado about nothing – although some “Main Street” business people and other city residents have expressed concerns about potential impacts on Burien if it annexes the remaining unincorporated area.

But neither the city council nor staff has begun discussing annexation or otherwise working on preliminary details. In fact, not until the May 23 council meeting did City Manager Mike Martin recommended that lawmakers take up this issue beginning June 20.

The B-Town Blog’s posting of McGilton’s letter sparked a flurry of responses. For reference, here’s the letter (download a PDF of it here):

Click image to download PDF of McGilton's letter.

Similar remarks were addressed to council members at their June 6 meeting.

“I’m really upset that you guys are on the fast track … to annex the north,” said Mark Minium, general manager of Burien Honda. “I would like to see financials … I need to know more before I can support” a second North Highline annexation.

Minium said he needs answers “before I invest any more in the city … I feel like I’ve been hit in the stomach.” And he urged the council to take care or arts and education in the city before adding new residents.

Liz Giba, a North Highline Unincorporated Area Council member, countered, “I don’t think they [the city council] are trying to fast-ball anyone … if you’re afraid of anyone, be afraid of Seattle….

“White Center is not going anywhere – it’s who controls White Center,” Giba added. “If Seattle annexes us, they’re going to increase the concentration of poverty” in White Center. “The threat is very real.”

When McGilton asked Martin to clarify the status of the annexation issue, he said “I’m mystified by the article and the response to it … there just haven’t been any conversations about annexation … despite what we’ve heard tonight.”

Noting “the council hasn’t directed me [to proceed with annexation] and it’s a fact,” Martin added, “we haven’t done anything about it yet.” He called the rumors “a disservice.”

McGilton's letter clearly stated that the city would 'consider the question of annexation within sixty (60) days.'

McGilton responded, “Until council gives you direction, there’s not a lot you can do with it.”

She later told The B-Town Blog that “annexation is, of course, of interest to current Burien residents … and the council is willing to bring a discussion forward” since Seattle has “made it clear” it won’t proceed and won’t interfere with Burien if it proposes an annexation.

Until now, however, “no decisions have been made and there have been no conversations whether to proceed.”

Councilman Gordon Shaw, who publicly has indicated he leans toward annexing North Highline, said during the meeting that council members will look at the economy of such a move before proceeding.

“It amazes me that anyone would try to push it through … and if the numbers don’t come out I will be a no vote on annexation.” But, he allowed, “I don’t expect it to be that.”

And Councilwoman Rose Clark expressed “dismay” at city residents “who are not informed … accusing this council of doing things it hasn’t done.”

In her letter to the library trustees, McGilton wrote “I believe it is highly likely the Council will resolve this question by the end of July.

She suggested two timing alternatives:

  1. If the council does not opt to move forward with annexation by Aug. 1, it will work with the trustees to help them find a location for a consolidated library facility in North Burien.
  2. But “if the Council does decide to advance annexation … we would ask you to table the question until after the residents of North Highline have had the chance to vote on whether to join Burien.”

Martin told The B-Town Blog that city council members “are going to want certain information that I don’t have about the financial viability” of annexing the remaining North Highline unincorporated area, including White Center.

He will begin gathering and providing that information and hopes to have it to them by late July – a “reasonable’ time frame since “there is so much work already done from previous annexation studies.”

At that point, Martin continued, “if they tell me ‘we’re not interested,’ then we’re done. Conceivably they would rescind the PAA (Potential Annexation Area) designation … or they may also say ‘we’re not interested now, maybe in a year.’”

But if the city council chooses to proceed with annexation, there is no “fast track,” as some in Burien have suggested.

First, Martin said, the city would then file a notice of intent with the King County Boundary Review Board. Should Seattle intervene, which that city council has indicated it won’t do, there would be an added review by the board.

“If the Boundary Review Board approves a potential annexation by Burien, “there would be a vote in the first half of 2012. That would be my goal,” Martin said.

Annexation still would have to be approved by voters in the unincorporated area. If they voted to join Burien, the city would then set a date to make annexation official.

While city council members “will be making decisions shortly,” Martin added, “the fact is that annexation can’t occur for some time yet.”

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15 Responses to “Council Responds To North Highline Annexation Concerns, Explains Process”
  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for the clarification. Hopefully the citizens of Burien will realize that there is no “fast track” happening and that there never has been. They have been talking about annexing North Highline for several years now so if this is new news to them then they have been living under a rock. I personally am all for annexing White Center to Burien… I have lived here all my life and have always considered it part of my Burien community!

  2. Feral Dog says:

    Peeking out from under my rock,, ^ ^
    You have lived in Burien your whole life and considered Rat city part of your community?
    Wow.. You must be the first. *lol*
    Or have ya lived in Rat city and considered Burien part of your community which would still be a first,, Just teasin with ya.

    • Jennifer says:

      I know your teasing but, I grew up and still reside in the Gregory heights neighborhood! And currently happily work at a school in “Rat City” 🙂

  3. Tom Taaffe says:

    I am certainly not a person from “main street’ as that term was used to describe oponents of the annexation but along with many non mainstreet citizens, business and professional people, I share a real concern that the city council is being sold on and handing off to the present and future citizens of Burien a financial pig in a poke of huge proportions.
    One of our council persons suggests that he will wait to see how the “numbers come out”. What numbers? Who will prepare these numbers? How will they be verified? The City of Seattle passed on the annexation because of the numbers that were generated for them. Will we have better numbers? I suspect not.

  4. Eaton B. Verz says:

    Sounds like a lot of indignation and denial for just asking for clarif ication of a public document. Maybe someone got caught with their hand in the cookie jar??? Thanks for getting the info Scott! Just my opinion….The county can keep White Center. Burien has a hard time running what they have now and in the immortal words of our Mayor “That’s the best science available!!”

  5. Butch Henderson says:

    The annexation of the rest of North Highline is an issue that will be dealt with in the future. We need to be focusing our immediate attention on KCLS attempt to close the
    White Center and Boulevard Park Libraries. We have just 19 days to gather signatures in support of keeping these istitutions in their respective neighborhoods,. rather than having a new one built somewhere inbetween. There is a concerted effiort underway in White Center to do this. I’m looking for help accomplishing this in Boulevard Park.
    Any Takers ?
    Contact Me

  6. Coverofnight says:

    As Ralph points out, “…McGilton’s letter clearly stated that the city would ‘consider the question of annexation within sixty (60) days.’

    Fellow citizens should be proud, as I am, that we have an informed citizenry where these things are noticed and can be questioned (as Eating BVD’s said) for simple clarification.

    How arrogant of councilmembers and the city manager (“…He called the rumors “a disservice.”) to put it back on us; to make us feel guilty for taking an active interest in our community – even if there’s nothing to worry about.

    Later in the article, “…Councilwoman Rose Clark expressed “dismay” at city residents “who are not informed … accusing this council of doing things it hasn’t done.” Why not have that simple clarification from Joan McGilton? I’d like to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

  7. Get a clue burien city council says:


    I couldn’t agree more. This sounds like a classic “I got my hand caught in the cookie jar.” this was a non denial denial. They didn’t say they aren’t annexing white center did they.

    And to be able to vote for it in the first half of 2012??????? Yeah city council of burien that is not fast tracking it at all. geez

    The majority of the city council supports annexation. They can give lip service to the fact that nothing has been decided but the truth is they know the numbers, it is a losing proposition which is why Seattle didn’t want it. And it is also why the council and city manager have seen to it that anyone against annexation and anyone asking legitimate questions has conveniently been sent away or removed from advisory positions.

    As far as Seattle turning white center into a dumping ground. Give me a break, it already is a dumping ground. Drive through it at 1 am and see if you live.

    • Justin says:

      Really? Have you been to White Center lately? They have a thriving business corridor, with almost zero vacancies. Can Burien Say that?

      Drive through at one am and see if you live. What is it Detroit? Have you seen some of the crap holes Burien proudly boasts?

      • elizabeth2 says:

        Zero vacancies in White Center – who are you kidding? I drive through all the time and it is just like Burien in regards to empty store fronts, no different, no better, no worse.

  8. Get a clue burien city council says:


    You hit the nail on the head. Lest the burien city council forget they are responsible to the citizens of burien. They should have to answer tough questions and they should want their citizens asking questions.

    It is called democracy.

    As far as mike Martin is concerned well I think the usefulness of an unelected city manager, who does whatever he wants and then calls it a disservice when people question him, is about through. Time to eliminate the city manager position or make it an elected office. Then let’s see mike Martin say people who ask questions and what to know what their city leaders are doing is a “disservice.”

    Give me a f-ing break burien city officials. Get over your arrogant self and come down from your ivory tower. And if you don’t like questions then don’t run for public office.

  9. Get a clue burien city council says:

    So Gordon shaw expects us to believe that he doesn’t expect the numbers to come out that would cause him to vote no.

    Well what numbers are you looking at Gordon? Not the same ones the city of Seattle just did. Because they saw the numbers and passed on annexation. What numbers are you looking at exactly? The ones spoon fed to you by mike Martin?

  10. Catherine says:

    How did people jump to the conclusion that Burien is annexing in 60 days? Maybe it’s because everyone reads this blog. I doubt many people were reading public letters to the library in their spare time. It sounds like a misunderstanding of an interpretation of the letter. That’s my guess why the council members were upset.

  11. Get a clue burien city council says:

    They can spin it however they want. The letter says they will “consider the question of annexation in 60 days.” How exactly are people suppose to interpret this? The meaning and intent of the letter are pretty obvious to anyone that can read. The comments today are called cya.

  12. Tom Taaffe says:

    Disingenuous defined – “giving a false impression of frankness”

    Example “We’re not fast tracking. there are many steps to be taken before annexation can occur”. This is true but so misleading.
    The big and oh so very important first step is the vote by the city council. This starts the ball rolling and once started it is unlikely to stop. To hold this vote without a full investigation of the financial impact of the annexation by an independent expert or experts would be fast tracking of the most egregious sort with potentially devastating impact on the citizens of Burien.
    I suggest that the council and the manager stop “visioning” (sounds like a peyote quest doesn’t it) and start gathering hard numbers.

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