Cartoon by The Mad Artist

by Ralph Nichols

With North Highline voters approving annexation to Burien by a comfortable margin, Mayor Joan McGilton declared Wednesday morning (Aug. 19th), “I’m pretty excited about having a whole historic part of our community brought together again in the city.”

Burien City Manager Mike Martin added, “I’m very pleased with the results and welcome our new residents. We’ll do our best to serve them well.” He said “in recent weeks, people expected it to go this way.”

After the first two reports from King County Elections on the results of yesterday’s primary election – the county’s first all mail-in election – votes “For” the annexation issue led with almost 59 percent of the ballots cast, compared to just over 41 percent to those “Against” the move.

Ballots counted on election night represent slightly more than 23 percent of registered voters in the part of the North Highline unincorporated area that will be annexed – 1,491 ballots out of 6,384 registered voters – with 862 yes votes and 603 no votes. Election officials predicted that about 35 percent of registered voters would cast ballots in the primary.

When annexation becomes official, probably sometime in late winter or early spring, Burien will be the 21st largest city in Washington with a population of approximately 45,990, surpassing Olympia. Currently the city ranks 31st in the state. Some 14,100 new residents will come into the city as Burien takes in an area extending north from South/SW 128th Street to a line that zigzags west to east along SW 112th Street in north Shorewood, So. 116th Street, South 112th Street, and South 107th Street in Boulevard Park, ending at Tukwila.

Much of Beverly Park and Boulevard Park, including the Rainier Golf and Country Club, will be absorbed by Burien. Left in the remaining unincorporated area between the new Burien city limits and Seattle will be the North Highline fire station, Evergreen High School and Pool, and the Top Hat neighborhood.

“City staff will be working really hard to make this transition as seamless and as welcoming as possible,” McGilton assured the future new city residents.

The first step will be a special City Council meeting on annexation on Monday, Aug. 24, at 7pm, to discuss “how in general to do this whole thing,” Martin said. “In the immediate future, we plan on listening to that community to find out how their vision fits with that of our existing Burien residents. There seems to be a strong feeling that something was torn apart when Burien incorporated in 1993 and this starts to put that back together again.”

Addressing “those who didn’t want to join Burien,” he stressed “there is room in this city for dissenting voices. We welcome that, and hope we will win them over in the future and they will feel comfortable in our city.”

Not sharing their enthusiasm over the annexation vote was Mark Ufkes, president of the White Center Homeowners Association and a member of White Center Residents for a Secure Future, and a leading opponent of the proposition who argued before the primary that “Burien is the least best choice” for North Highline.

“All I can offer is that they’re predicting a 35 percent (voter) turnout and last November there was an 80 percent turnout. Would the election outcome be different if everybody participated? My contention all along was that Burien wanted a low turnout and they got it.”

But Greg Duff, president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council disagrees. Approval of annexation by Burien is “not a surprise because NHUAC did a survey and it showed that people wanted to go to Burien rather than Seattle. At that point, the council began working on annexation and supported the people’s wishes. I had a good idea based on the response to our survey they would vote to support annexation.”

Duff noted that survey results reflected a preference by a majority of all North Highline residents to become part of Burien – including those residing in “north” North Highline, which will remain unincorporated for now.

He extended thanks to Martin “and the Burien City Council for having the vision that North Highline is an asset. And I thank the citizens of North Highline who worked so hard to make this possible. This was a real grassroots effort.”

Ufkes, who lives one block north of the annexation area, said what happens to the remaining unincorporated area is not for him to decide. “It’s up to the community members.” But, he said, “Seattle has expressed interest in moving ahead (with annexing that area) next year with a vote – in November.”

Duff questioned Ufkes’ claim. “I belief this annexation to Burien is going to be successful,” he said, adding that would increase the interest of residents outside the city in becoming part of Burien, too. The unincorporated area council needs “to sit down and decide what’s our next move. We can’t wait. But it’s really up to Burien.”

He also said he is unaware at this time of any interest by Seattle in the remaining North Highline area, and that that city’s mayoral and council races could affect its future position on annexation.

A resident of the area that will be annexed, Duff will resign soon from the unincorporated area council.

Say hello to your new Overlords, southern North Highline residents!

McGilton repeated her earlier statement that Burien’s annexation of “south” North Highline needs to be given time to settle in. Then the council can “look at it. I’m a phase one, phase two person … if this is a success, then that will give us credibility to move on north.”

She acknowledged “the tremendous work that Mike Martin and Jennifer Ramirez-Robson, who set up the community meetings, and (Community Development Director) Scott Greenberg, who worked on this for so long compiling the numbers so they came together and will not increase cost to the city. Many others were instrumental as well, but these three were out in front.”

At Monday’s council meeting, “we will bring a resolution to modify the municipal code so North Highline residents in the new annexation area can serve on city advisory boards and commissions now” – through the regular appointment process as positions become open,” Martin noted. That “will give folks in that area a direct say in advising the city council.

“In the next few weeks we will be hiring staff and taking inventories of capital needs (in the unincorporated area). We will need to start figuring out planning and zoning issues up there.”

Martin repeated that “south” North Highline will not become part of Burien immediately. The process of bringing the unincorporated area into the city will take several months, with annexation becoming official sometime in late winter at the earliest.

The city’s primary focus on bringing the annexed area into Burien will be planning and zoning, streets and storm drains, and code enforcement, as well as adding staff to work on these matters. In addition, Burien, which adopted a two-year budget for the first time this year, will need to modify it for 2010 to allow for both increased revenue and spending.

The city’s contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office will be modified to hire more deputies as city police officers, many of whom already work in North Highline. All special districts – fire, water, sewer, library, and Highline schools – will continue to provide services in the newly annexed area without interruption or change.

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

4 replies on “Big Day At City Hall As Burien Celebrates Successful Annexation Vote; Special Council Meeting Is Aug. 24th”

  1. I hope you readers understand the meaning of our little cartoon; I meant no malice; it s simply a matter of two entwined elements: Government & Taxes.

    The Bigger the Government, the Higher the taxes…for some Mysterious reason!

  2. 1,000 yes votes out of 6,000 registered voters should not be interpretted by the Mayor and the City Manager as a resounding endorsement of their leadership.

  3. I thought the per centage of votes cast indicated the level of annexation apporval, but I like Jin’s way of interpreting the results. Only about 700 out of 6000 registered voters disapproved of the Burien Mayor and Manager position.

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