by Ralph Nichols

For the second time in three years, King County is attempting to renege at the 11th hour on a deal with the City of Burien.

The King County Library System reportedly has entered into a preliminary agreement to purchase Puget Sound Park at 1st Ave. S. and SW 126th St. from the county in a deal brokered by through the county executive’s office.

Puget Sound Park is located in the unincorporated area of North Highline that is to be annexed by Burien early next year.

But the stealth attempt to sell the park – initiated and discussed by the county without informing the city of its intent – prompted Burien council members at their meeting on Nov. 23 that they will postpone official annexation of North Highline, which tentatively was set for March 2nd (read our previous coverage here).

Burien officials and North Highline residents now hope that new King County Executive Dow Constantine, who was sworn in Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 24), will intervene to block the sale, thus allowing Puget Sound Park to go to the city as part of annexation.

Constantine represented Burien, North Highline and West Seattle on the King County Council until his election as county executive in November. Because of his swearing in, he was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Burien City Manager Mike Martin informed council members about the pending sale of the park – which he learned about only late last week – at Monday night’s meeting and recommended that they not vote, as scheduled, on an ordinance setting March 2 as the effective date of annexation. They agreed unanimously to postpone action at this time.

“We expect to have that park,” Martin told The B-Town Blog today. “No annexation deal will be done until we get that asset.”

Mayor Joan McGilton sent a letter to Constantine on Nov. 20, requesting his “direct intervention in this matter.” She noted that city attempts to contact county staff had not produced “satisfactory results.”

“I think we can agree that such a delay is not in the best interest of our residents, and comes at significant additional cost to the County’s general fund,” McGilton told Constantine.

Martin said he only learned about the county’s interest in selling Puget Sound Park – initiated when Kurt Triplett was county executive – during a recent conversation on another matter with Fire District 2 officials, who said the property had been offered to them.

After they declined, King County reportedly contacted the King County Library System, which said yes to the offer and subsequently signed a letter of intent.

“We didn’t know what was going on until then,” said Martin. County officials had given the city no indication of their plans, despite the fact the park is in the area to be annexed by Burien.

Staff in the executive’s office under Triplett – who was chief of staff to former county executive Ron Sims until Sims resigned earlier this year to take a position in the administration of President Obama – apparently hope to make about $500,000 on the sale of the park to help plug the $56.4 million shortfall facing King County next year.

Greg Duff, president of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, said, “The people of North Highline want their parks. We want our open spaces. For them to do that now is a slap in the face…. The people of North Highline voted for annexation and want King County to stop messing around.”

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 general fund expenses by $4.6 million.

Constantine quickly responded, opposing Triplett’s plan to cut funding for the parks in unincorporated areas. “Parks are important to the health and quality of life of everyone in the communities,” and closing them would be “short sighted,” he said.

In 2007, Sims pulled out of a deal signed years earlier with Burien and the Port of Seattle for the demolition of the Lora Lake Apartments, which were operated by King County Housing Authority, to pave the way for commercial development in the city’s Northeast Redevelopment Area.

Although the county successfully won control of the apartment complex, it later was demolished anyway because soil contamination made it unsuitable as a residential property.

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

9 replies on “County’s Stealth Attempts To Sell Puget Sound Park May Postpone Official Annexation”

  1. Nice to see how now former King County Executive Kurt Triplett’s belief in government transparency played out in his final weeks in office. He really is/was a disciple of Ron Sims.

  2. the city of burien and mr. duff are looking to stop a deal for LIBRARIES to buy a park that was at risk of closing, presumably build a library AND let the county use the revenue to keep other critical services open? that actually sounds like a pretty friggin’ great deal from where i sit. who are you people?

    1. I think the problem that Burien is concerned about is not that the Library might do useful things with the park but rather that the county is surreptiously selling property that it has already agreed would be transferred to Burien.

      It is sort of as if after someone sold you a house (but before you took possession), they sold all the appliances (thus reducing the value of what you bought) and did it without letting you know.) You might even feel aggrieved also.

  3. So why is the King County Library System looking to spend a half million on property to add to an already built out system at the same time they are getting ready to hit up the taxpayers for a property tax increase? I am all for having a great library system, but I’d like to see some fiscal restraint instead of a tax increase!

  4. We all love a great library system. We also love our parks. This park was not in danger of closing. The county is putting the pressure on the Unincorporated Areas to get annexed and then sells off the parks once the annexation has been voted on. It’s like selling someone a car and then taking the wheels off before you deliver the car. I live by this park and I want the open space. We have a new library in Burien and one in Greenbridge so we have enough libraries in the area. This is the largest open space in the area and we want to keep it open. I am glad we are being annexed to Burien but I am afraid I agree on Burien waiting for annexation to happen until this issue is resolved. The county will see by delaying annexation, they will have to continue providing services to the area and that will cost them more money.

  5. King County should be called Seattle County. B/C they don’t give a rip about anything outside of Seattle.
    Take for example KCs stealth effort to sell their land in Maple Valley to a developer for a sweet price until the rats were smoked out and would not allow the City of Maple Valley annex it even though it was totally surrounded by City of Maple Valley.
    KCs latest stealth effort by Triplett is to impose a car tab tax without a vote on those in unincorporated KC.

  6. Excuuse me- Don’t we already have a new library in burien??? I think this is more evidence that Mr. Triplett is not nor ever has been worthy to be KC executive. Right now I don’t think he could be leceted Dog Catcher- oh wait he did away with animal control, so prove my point

  7. Some clarification needs to be made in regard to King County Library System
    funding referred to in a previous blog:
    Proposition 1, will be on King, Pierce and Snohomish County ballots in
    February, 2010. This measure proposes to restore the KCLS property tax
    levy rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for collection in 2011.
    In 2009, the constraints of I-747 resulted in a KCLS operating budget cut of
    $1.9 million at a time that the demand or library services have greatly
    increased. Proposition 1 would determine if the current level of library
    service can be maintained, or if further cuts would be necessary.
    The KCLS Library Replacement Bond measure, passed in September 2004,
    provided funding for the library system’s 10 year capital budget. In the
    “Strategic Planning Guidelines for Library Improvement Modifications”,
    modifications in materials-handling at Boulevard Park were put on hold
    pending annexation as was the plan to build a new library with upgraded
    modifications at the current site of the White Center Library.
    While there are a number of issues that need resolution as to the
    intertwining of the sale of Puget Park, the possible re-siting of the White
    Center Library, and the potential closure/combining of the Boulevard Park
    Library, it is important for voters to recognize the difference between the
    use of capital funds they voted on in 2004 and the need for operating funds
    to maintain library services in 2010.
    We need to insist that our King County Council and our King County Library
    administrators are “straight-talking” with everyone and that no decisions be
    made without full disclosure and opportunity for public response.

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