Gordon Shaw Exits Council, Warns About Costs Of Not Annexing North Highline
As Gordon Shaw departs from the Burien City Council today (Monday, Jan. 9), he looks back with conviction at his “major accomplishment” as a councilman – and warns of the costs of not annexing unincorporated North Highline.
“Helping get Mike Martin hired as city manager [in 2007] is the best thing I did,” Shaw told The B-Town Blog. “Overall, Mike is bringing forward-looking ideas to council members for their consideration and is putting Burien on sounder footing than it was before.”
Martin replaced former City Manager Gary Long and, said Shaw, “if I had the chance to do it over, I’d hire him again. The city council and city manager have a better working relationship today, and that’s good for Burien.”
Another key effort by Shaw during his eight years on the city council, which remains a work in progress, is the inclusion of Burien businesses in the Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA) under the flight path north of Sea-Tac International Airport.
This land, owned by the Port of Seattle, is in Burien. Shaw has been quietly working for development of an auto center there just off State Route 518. This would give car dealers on First Avenue South a lot more space that could become a sales magnet for the region.
Shaw called locating an auto center and other Burien businesses in NERA, where the Port will develop air cargo support services, “a vital link for economic development in Burien.
“I’m encouraged with the progress of discussions and believe the city and the Port will reach a mutually beneficial development agreement.”
Turning his attention to the major decision facing the city council as a new year begins – annexation – Shaw noted that “opponents of making the White Center area part of Burien are concerned about the cost.”
One of those opponents, Bob Edgar, defeated him in his bid for election to a third term on the city council last November.
“In the long run, and it won’t take that long,” Shaw said, “the costs to our city will be a lot more if we fail to annex North Highline – especially if Seattle ends up annexing the area – because of higher crime just north of Roxbury.”
Currently, criminal activity in this area of south Seattle, a consequence of limited police resources there due to budget constraints, spills over into White Center where it is largely contained by King County Sheriff’s deputies, he continued.
“But if Seattle ends up annexing the area, that crime will take root in White Center and spill into the existing North Burien, and that will cost Burien taxpayers a lot more as they pay more for increased police services without the additional North Highline tax base,” Shaw added.
“In my estimation, this would make it necessary for Burien to hire four or five additional police officers, which would cost the city about $600,000 to $750,000 including their cars and other equipment.”
Shaw agrees that the costs of annexation present a major challenge for Burien – especially with the threatened elimination of the state’s annexation sales tax credit – and said he still opposes annexation without state help.
“The city council entered into this annexation process with the understanding that state help was there, and without that assistance it just doesn’t make sense.”
He hopes, however, that the city will continue with the annexation process and then, if necessary, put the final step on hold while new funding sources are found to pay for bringing the area into Burien without increasing the tax burden on current residents.
Another key aspect of annexation that gets lost in the debate, Shaw added, is the available land in North Highline that would give Burien needed room for the development of additional commercial activity including light industry.
“These vacant areas are critical for the economic future of Burien. And this includes a lot more than just White Center. The South Park area with its developed infrastructure is a prime location for light industry,” he said. “But if we lose them now, they’re gone forever.”
Shaw, a lifelong Burien resident and businessman, joined the city council in January 2004 and served two terms. Before that, he was a long-time member of the city’s planning commission.