King County Executive Dow Constantine, whose first full day on the job was Monday (Nov. 30), reportedly plans to meet with all interested parties before deciding the future of Puget Sound Park.
The King County Library System recently entered into a preliminary agreement with former Executive Kurt Triplett to purchase the park from the county in a deal brokered through county executiveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office.
But Puget Sound Park is located at 1st Ave South and SW 126th Street in the unincorporated area of North Highline that is to be annexed by Burien early next year. And City Manager Mike Martin said last week that annexation wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen until Burien gets this park as part of the deal.
Burien and North Highline officials knew nothing about the pending sale of the park to the library system until Nov. 20th (read our previous coverage here).
Frank Abe, ConstantineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s director of communications, told The B-Town Blog on Nov. 30 that Ã¢â‚¬Å“one of the executiveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first action items will be to sit down with all the parties involved and to understand their concernsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Before taking office, Executive Constantine asked the previous executive (Triplett) not to take action until he could talk to everyone, and no action was takenÃ¢â‚¬Â on a possible sale of the park, which is now on hold.
Constantine likely will meet with Burien Mayor Joan McGilton and Martin, King County Library System Director Bill Ptacek, and North Highline Unincorporated Area Council President Greg Duff, among others.
Abe said Constantine wants to Ã¢â‚¬Å“figure out whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best Ã¢â‚¬â€œ especially for the people of Burien.Ã¢â‚¬Â Constantine represented Burien, North Highline and West Seattle on the King County Council until his election as county executive in November.
He added that Deputy County Executive Fred Jarrett has emphasized Ã¢â‚¬Å“we want to be certain the county doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do something thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s arrogant or one-sidedÃ¢â‚¬Â where Burien is concerned.
TriplettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stealth attempt to sell the park Ã¢â‚¬â€œ initiated by the county and discussed with library system officials without informing the city or, apparently, library system trustees Ã¢â‚¬â€œ prompted Burien council members at their meeting on Nov. 23 to postpone official annexation of North Highline, which tentatively was set for March 2.
Burien officials and North Highline residents hope that Constantine will intervene to block the sale, thus allowing Puget Sound Park to go to the city as part of annexation. And a Jan. 28, 2009, letter from Constantine to the North Highline Council, following a meeting he had with Triplett, may give them reason for optimism (download a PDF of the letter here).
At that time, while Burien lawmakers continued to deliberate the annexation issue, Triplett had identified Puget Sound Park as a county property that might be used for affordable workforce housing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Park property is hard to come by and especially dear to any community,Ã¢â‚¬Â Constantine wrote the North Highline Council. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Any proposal to sell park property must receive the highest level of scrutiny and public discussionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Any specific proposal for Puget Sound Park would also need to be similarly presented for community review.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Given that Puget Sound Park is located in the city of BurenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Potential Annexation Area, I urged the ExecutiveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s representatives to include Burien officials in any future discussions.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We expect to have that park,Ã¢â‚¬Â Martin said following the Burien councilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s postponement of setting a date for formal annexation. Ã¢â‚¬Å“No annexation deal will be done until we get that asset.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And McGilton sent a letter to Constantine requesting his Ã¢â‚¬Å“direct intervention in this matter.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Burien City Councilwoman Rose Clark, in remarks during the Nov. 23 meeting, called TriplettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“eleventh-hourÃ¢â‚¬Â attempt to sell Puget Sound Park Ã¢â‚¬Å“reprehensible.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Councilman Gordon Shaw called the move Ã¢â‚¬Å“very, very bad governmentÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m very disappointed with King County. The (North Highline) residents have said before they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want the park sold.
Shaw added that the timing of the revelation of the proposed park sale Ã¢â‚¬Å“gives (the city) a really good opportunity to work with Dow in a new collaboration and to get away from the dictatorial attitude the county has had toward Burien in the past.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Shortly after the August election, when residents of the southern part of North Highline approved annexation by Burien, Triplett proposed mothballing King County parks to reduce county general fund expenses by $4.6 million.
Constantine quickly responded, opposing TriplettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan to cut funding for the parks in unincorporated areas.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Parks are important to the health and quality of life of everyone in the communities,Ã¢â‚¬Â and closing them would be Ã¢â‚¬Å“short sighted,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.