LETTER: City of Burien responds to John White’s drone/slide complaints


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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

I read the article you posted on Thursday, May 10, 2018 entitled, ‘Resident unhappy with city’s drone, claims it invaded privacy, scared daughters.’ This letter contains the City’s perspective regarding efforts to bring Mr. White’s property into compliance with the Burien Municipal Code and state law. While Mr. White has a pending permit to grade his driveway, significant portions of the property were cleared, graded, and improved without permits. The entirety of Mr. White’s property is within a critical and landslide hazard area.

In 2013, the City began to receive complaints that Mr. White was using his property as an event space as well as complaints about unpermitted construction activity on the property. Economy Electric complained that Mr. White conducted unlicensed electrical and structural work on the house without permits. Beginning in 2012, the City has repeatedly informed Mr. White that no construction activity or vegetation removal is permitted on his property without a Critical Area Review. A Critical Area Review allows the City to determine the extent to which construction activity and vegetation removal affects surface water, storm water and other characteristics of the critical area. To date, the City has obtained this information from Mr. White only as it pertains to his driveway, not the rest of his property.

On January 22, 2015, the City met with Mr. White and provided him with Burien GIS photos of the heavily vegetated condition of the property in 2009 and 2012 contrasted with a 2015 GIS photo of the cleared and graded property shown on Exhibits A, B, and C of the attached letter. When shown this photographic evidence of the change in his property, Mr. White informed the City he believes the slides to be caused by the City’s handling of storm water at Eagle Landing Park and not by his unpermitted clearing. He denies having undertaken unpermitted construction activity on his property.

Now Mr. White alleges that the City trespassed on his property and violated his “Fourth Amendment” rights when it operated a drone on May 8, 2018 in the area of Eagle Landing Park. The drone was operated by the City’s consultant, Geo Engineers, and all drone photos and footage were obtained from legally occupied airspace above Eagle Landing Park and the beach. All footage taken has been provided to the B Town Blog.

It is the City’s job to ensure that all Burien citizens are entitled to equal treatment regarding application of land use codes and regulations. The City will continue to enforce its Critical Area regulations, building, and construction standards on all development occurring in these landslide hazard areas. It’s mandatory that the City enforce these regulations to preserve the stability of the slopes and the sensitive environment in the area.

A letter from the City to Mr. White enumerating the code violations on his property and the required corrective action is attached (download PDF here).

The City is committed to seeing this process through to achieve full compliance, and will pursue any and all legal remedies available to meet this objective.

– Brian J. Wilson
City Manager

Link: Folder with photos & letter re: code enforcements

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