Council Responds To North Highline Annexation Concerns, Explains Process
[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.]
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):
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 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:
- 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.
- 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.”