By Nicholas Johnson

More than a year after the Burien City Council adopted zoning regulations for enhanced services facilities (ESFs), city staff say they need the council to clarify how such a facility would be reviewed and approved if proposed in a single-family residential neighborhood.

City Manager Brian Wilson brought the issue to the council’s attention Monday evening after The B-Town Blog raised questions about whether the review process listed in city code conformed with the council’s 4-3 vote in June 2020 to adopt zoning regulations allowing ESFs in all zones where residential uses are allowed, including single-family residential zones, as unanimously recommended by the city’s planning commission in January 2020.

“The council did not specify the review type that would occur if we had a request for an ESF facility in a single-family zone,” Wilson told the council, noting that there are currently no ESFs proposed anywhere in the city. “Currently, I think we have it as a Type 1 review, which is administrative.”

In fact, city code has called for a Type 1 land-use review process for ESFs in single-family zones since June 2020 when council adopted Ordinance 734. A Type 1 review process requires public notice and a 21-day public comment period prior to a decision by the Community Development director, who has the option to provide an informational public meeting, as well. That director’s decision can be appealed to a hearing examiner.

Most other uses allowed in single-family zones are subject to a Type 2 review process, which requires notice, a comment period and a public hearing prior to a decision by a hearing examiner. That decision can be appealed to the city council.

In January 2020, the city’s planning commission unanimously recommended allowing ESFs in all zones where residential uses are allowed, subject to a Type 2 review process. City staff presented that recommendation to the council during its February 2020 business meeting.

At that meeting, a motion to adopt the planning commission’s recommendation failed 2-4. Instead, the council voted unanimously to have staff bring back the pros and cons of allowing ESFs in certain other zones not including single-family zones.

When the council returned to the issue in June 2020, the draft zoning code amendments presented by staff indicated a Type 1 review process for ESFs in single-family zones. The council voted 4-3 in favor of council member Cydney Moore’s motion “to amend the zoning code to provide local zoning controls for ESFs … with changes necessary to conform to the recommendations of the planning commission, including allowing ESFs in single-family zoning.”

During Monday’s council meeting, Community Development Director Susan McLain pointed out that “there was not discussion about the review type at that June meeting from last year.

“So what we did was we assembled a package that was what we understood to be the decision at the time, but there’s been some questions since then,” McLain said, referring to those raised by The B-Town Blog.

“I just wanted to clarify that the review process was discussed by the planning commission,” Moore said during Monday’s meeting. “My preference, just speaking to the matter, is that it remains a Type 1 review process as it is currently codified at this time.”

Council member Kevin Schilling said he would like staff to bring back more information regarding other review process options.

“If we are bringing it back because the review process was not specified, I would very much be in favor of it not being a Type 1 review process,” Schilling said. “Bring the options to us and we should have a conversation about it.”

Ultimately, the council directed staff to prepare an agenda bill and draft an ordinance “to ensure council’s intent of the type of review process that you would like to see” for ESFs in single-family residential zones.

“I would appreciate, and I think the community would appreciate, having clarity on what the process is that we will use,” council member Nancy Tosta said. “So I would ask that, yes, you do bring it back to us and outline the pros and cons of which review process to engage in.”

Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to


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