Burien City Council dumps any possible North Highline annexation


SeattleAnnexationMap

by Jack Mayne

Probably the last possible avenue to any thought of Burien annexing White Center and North Boulevard Park was shut down by a one-vote margin at the Burien City Council meeting Monday night.

The Council voted 4 – 3 Monday (Dec. 15) to remove from Burien’s Comprehensive Plan the Potential Annex Area (PAA) that would have permitted the city under state law to pursue the annexation despite residents of the North Highline Unincorporated Area soundly rejecting the proposed 2012 annexing to Burien.

No Council member suggested any desire to annex the area, even those wanting to keep the designation.

Earlier last Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to approve 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 (read our previous coverage here).

Seattle has a state designation of a Potential Annex Area even though, normally, only one can exist for the same area, and Burien had theirs first. Political pressure and lobbying got the state to allow two such PAAs to exist for the North Highline area.

Now, the Burien vote means only Seattle has the power to consider making White Center and environs a part of an incorporated city.

Disservice and irresponsible
Late and after much discussion on other matters, near 10:30 p.m., the Council took up a motion to remove the Potential Annex Area from the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Robison said removing the PAA would be “irresponsible” and a “disservice to the citizens of Burien” because Burien does not know enough about what the annexation of the area would mean and the city would lose its ability to be involved in potential changes or impacts.

Robison said Burien would lose the backup it has now from the King County Sheriff’s Department that now patrols the North Highline area if Seattle annexes the area.

He added the Seattle annexation would mean the remaining White Center fire fighting equipment and facilities in North Highline would go to Seattle, equipment he said Burien depends upon to service North Burien.

Help from Seattle is unlikely, he said, because it has never made a mutual assistance agreement with any other city so it would be unlikely they would with Burien.

Burien would have no way to convince Seattle to share services “if we are just out of the picture completely,” Robison said.

Double the population
Also, he said Seattle has suggested White Center would become an “urban village” in their planning, or become more like Westwood Village or Ballard where single family homes are replaced by apartments and the area population would possibly increase from the current 17,000 residents to “settle probably around 50,000.”

“My hope is that with the PAA in place, we get a chance to influence the discussions … and there is not going to be an annexation by Seattle without discussions with King County and the State of Washington about what kind of assistance Seattle can get to pay for the cost annexing that area,” Robison told fellow Councilmembers. “I want us to have the opportunity to say ‘you need to include is in that discussion, you need to take into account the impact on us we need to, maybe, have an agreement with Seattle to back us up on police coverage and back us up on fire coverage, maybe extra money from the state or Seattle.’

“If we are not part of that discussion, then we re going to get screwed,” Robison said. “If this Council drops the PAA, you are all going to have that on your head.”

Not about annexation
Councilmember Nancy Tosta said the issue was not about annexation, but about choices for Burien.

“The PAA language in our Comp Plan is really unique,” she said. “I think we should think long and hard about whether we give this away because we will not get it back. It doesn’t force us to do anything, it just gives us an opportunity have more information, to have more dialogue, to be in the conversation.”

Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said there is no definitive information on the affects of a removal of the PAA so she would keep it.

“It is a shame to have this discussion now, because we have a responsibility to the citizens we represent … we need to have information,” she said.

Two wanting the PAA gone were Debi Wagner and Steve Armstrong.

Wagner has made it clear she wanted an end to annexation talk, noting a seat at the table “is not going to guarantee you any voice” on decisions.

Councilmember Steve Armstrong said even without the PAA Burien cannot be excluded from these discussions and didn’t know how much “leverage we have …” with it.

Citizen comments
A larger than usual contingent of the public had turned out at the meeting and told the Council to keep the PAA.

Former Burien Councilmember Rose Clark said, if it is removed, “you are foregoing the ability to represent the people, at least of Shorewood and north Burien when Seattle … negotiates with the Southwest Suburban Sewer District on future increases to sewer costs. You will also be saying to the people in north Burien and Shorewood that their emergency and fire services levels and costs will be subject to Seattle, but that that does not worry you.

“If you vote to take the PAA out, you will be abandoning your input on increased zoning that could increase density, especially low income and cause a ripple of school enrollment impacts that will be felt throughout the Highline School District. You won’t have a seat at the table to talk about that. Please keep the PAA in the Comp plan.”

Joey Martinez, a two-time former Council candidate and member of the city Planning Commission, said he wonders what would happen to police, fire and school systems if Seattle annexes North Highline. Burien would not be able to negotiate these and other matters if the PAA were removed because “we will not have a seat at the table.”

Rachael Levine, a Burien resident who supported the rejected annexation, wondered why drop the PAA when all of the efforts have been already paid for.

It is “a kind of safety for us to have a voice at the table” if Seattle annexes the area, Levine said.

Don Bennett said of the residents of North Highline, “they don’t want to annex to anybody.” Since Seattle has said any annexation would require a supporting vote of area residents, Bennett said he figured residents would reject that move, too. Keeping the PAA, he said, “keeps us in the ballgame.”

Roger Delorm said the majority of the people in the annexation area voted against it, two to one. Those people have spoken. Why is it still on the PAA when the majority of the people said no?”

Disingenuous
Berkowitz said the real problem is some Councilmembers are “being disingenuous and not representing the citizens and I am tired of playing nice and not saying that,” apparently referring to comments by Councilmembers Wager and Armstrong suggesting the PAA be dropped.

It “was not a rational decision.”

Voting to remove it were Mayor Lucy Krakowiak, Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar, Councilmembers Armstrong and Wagner.

Voting to keep it in the plan were Berkowitz, Robison and Nancy Tosta.

The same members voted to approve the adoption of Comprehensive Plan update, Ordinance 614.


Comments

One Response to “Burien City Council dumps any possible North Highline annexation”
  1. phuck says:

    Morons

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