Seattle Council OKs resolution on possible North Highline annexation

by Jack Mayne

The Seattle City Council quickly and unanimously approved on Monday (Dec. 15) a so-called “placeholder” resolution that could result in a vote by residents of the North Highline Unincorporated Area as to whether or not to be annexed to Seattle.

Council President Tim Burgess said it was a placeholder resolution because action was needed before the end of 2014 to safeguard the city’s access to a potential $5 million per year sales tax credit. That credit will expire on Dec. 31. The Seattle action means the city will retain access for the credit since it took action prior to the law’s expiration.

“The resolution is really a placeholder that allows it city, if we move forward to take advantage of the tax credit offered by the State of Washington for annexation,” Burgess told the Seattle City Council regular meeting Monday afternoon, adding the city will go to the Legislature when it convenes in January, seeking additional money if it does annex the North Highline area.

Waited for Burien option
“We did not pursue annexation of the North Highline annexation area, which includes White Center and North Boulevard Park in the past for several reasons, first we wanted to defer to the City of Burien and allow them to exercise their option, which they did, and the (White Center) voters did not approve that annexation,” Burgess said.

“Also, the revenue from this area is insufficient to fund the city’s additional costs of providing services in that area. Significant issues related to inter-governmental responsibilities are yet to be resolved and it has been unclear that there is majority support in the area for annexation by Seattle.

The Seattle Council president said the gap between the cost of providing city services and the revenues to be obtained from that area were such that the state adopted a sales tax incentive which could give Seattle $5 million a year for 10 years if Seattle annexes North Highline.

This resolution states that, while the city has a continued interest in annexation, additional conditions must be met before the city advances with final action.

In Seattle’s ‘best interests’?
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw questioned why the resolution contained language that said Seattle had “determined that it would be in the best interests and general welfare of the City of Seattle to annex” the area.

“It was my understanding that we were still open to that question and wanted to make sure that not only we, but the citizens of Burien, felt that that was true.”

Burgess said some of the language was to satisfy “a requirement in state law about stating intent.” If the resolution is read carefully, the Seattle Council president said, “there are multiple off-ramps on this road, if you will, going forward and this is not, in any way a final action by the city.”

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, whose newly created City Council district abuts much of the proposed annexation area, said he “strongly supports keeping this option open.

“Of course, it is up to the people of White Center to make that decision,” Rasmussen told councilmembers. “I think it could, in the long run, be a win-win.”

He said he knows White Center quite well and is aware of the challenges by having the boundary on Roxbury with the two jurisdictions across the street from each other – “having good sidewalks, for example.”

“We will need help from Olympia to meet some of those challenges” of insufficient revenue.

People forced from Seattle?
Councilmember Kshama Sawant said she wanted to frame the issues differently – on the people.

“North Highline, just like any other neighborhood, consists of human beings and those should be the most important motivation, not monetary units,” Sawant said. “I appreciate the speakers who gave a human face to White Center and the needs of the real human beings should be our primary concern.

“I agree with President Burgess that it is definitely a question of whether there is majority support – the people who live in the area themselves should support this in a majority.”

But, there is a racial and ethnic diversity in the area, Sawant said, and “unfortunately this is an economically segregated area with people who are struggling for survival …”

Sawant said “many of the people of the unincorporated King County might be Seattleites who have been forced out of this city in their search for affordable housing as this city becomes more and more unaffordable,” so she said she supported the resolution.


One Response to “Seattle Council OKs resolution on possible North Highline annexation”
  1. Liz Giba says:

    Not good news for White Center. It’s disappointing to hear that the Seattle City Council had no problem passing a resolution that is inaccurate and untrue (as Councilmember Bagshaw pointed out). It is no wonder that so many of us do not trust Seattle. Talk to us after Arbor Heights gets the sidewalks Seattle promised them when they were annexed. I forget how many years ago that was. 60?

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