Annexation update: Clarification from the county

At least, that’s the purported source of this comment just posted this afternoon on our Monday night post in which we broke the news about the annexation-process deal between Burien, Seattle, and two fire districts. So we thought we’d give it its own post:

Members of the White Center and broader North Highline Communities:

We have observed the blog postings making interpretations of the proposed memorandum of understanding between King County, Burien, Seattle and Fire Districts 2 and 11 regarding proposed annexation boundaries for the cities of Seattle and Burien.

Questions and interpretations are being offered. The intent of this posting is to address both.

First, the MOU is a proposed memorandum of understanding between the cities of Burien, Seattle, King County, and Fire District 2 and Fire District 11. The MOU lays out general policy principles and specific activities that the parties agree to in support of transitioning North Highline from unincorporated to city status and to ensure fire and life safety services are not jeopardized by any annexation proposal by either city. This is not an “Interlocal Agreement” as defined by state law nor does it allow for “annexation by interlocal agreement.” The MOU is premised on each city filing their proposals before the Washington State Boundary Review Board and then, if approved by the BRB, the annexation question being put before the voters of North Highline for a decision.


• Fire and Life Safety Services Protected — In the event of annexation, Burien, Seattle, King County and the Fire Districts all agree to work collaboratively to maintain the level of fire and life safety services to North Highline communities and neighborhoods of North Burien, Arbor Heights and urban unincorporated areas of South Park.

• Agreement to Burien’s Proposed Annexation Boundary through minor adjustment — Many of the stated concerns with Burien’s proposed annexation boundary are resolved with a small adjustment that maintains Fire District 11’s Headquarters outside of the area to be proposed for annexation by the City of Burien.

• Agreement to coordinated phasing of Annexation Election Proposals for consideration by North Highline residents — The MOU recognizes that there is broad diversity of opinions and preferences in the North Highline communities regarding annexation to Seattle and Burien and acknowledges both cities represent reasonable governance alternatives. The MOU supports Burien’s proposal for annexation election for the southern portion of North Highline and Seattle’s proposal for an annexation election for the northern portion of North Highline.

• Agreement that both Seattle and Burien should have access to the same level of state funding if either city is able to move forward with annexation of White Center and the northern portion of Boulevard Park

— Both cities acknowledge that the cost of serving this area (“Area Y”) is greater than the cost of serving the southern area proposed for annexation to Burien (“Area X”). The MOU acknowledges this through the agreement to have all parties work collaboratively to amend the annexation state sales tax credit law so that both Burien and Seattle would have access to up to $5 million if either annex Area Y.

The aim of the proposed MOU is to remove the obstacles that stop both Burien and Seattle from making annexation proposals to the voters of North Highline. The mediated agreement presumes the decision to annex will rest in the hands of North Highline voters.

If you have questions or comments about the mediation agreement, please feel free to contact the King County Annexation Initiative at: Thank you. – King County Annexation Initiative

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7 Responses to “Annexation update: Clarification from the county”

  1. Thank you King County Annexation Initiative for clarifying the MOU’s intent.
    Can you please let me know and others when this contact e-mail for you was established? I was not aware that the annexation intitiative had an e-mail at:
    Thank you.

  2. King County Annexation Initiative, thanks for posting. However, your comment that the “agreement presumes the decision to annex will rest in the hands of North Highline voters” is of concern. There is nothing in the proposed agreement that actually says the voters of North Highline will get to vote because there is nothing in this agreement that says the cities cannot annex any of the area by inter-local agreement. It seems like that wording should be added so that it is clear and that the agreement just doesn’t “presume” things.

    For anyone who might not be familiar with the method of annexation by inter-local agreement where a city can annex without a vote of the people in the area annexed, here’s a link to some information that explains that option.

  3. The MOU as written does not presume, or even contemplate, an election.
    The tax proposal might give either city $5M for annexing Area Y, but the MOU prevents Burien from pursuing that option.
    Without the MOU, Burien would get $600,000 for annexing Area X, or $5M (not an additional $5M, just $5M total) if it annexes all of NH.
    Under the MOU that option is available only if Seattle fails to annex Area Y. Seattle on the other hand gets the whole $5M for Area Y alone.

  4. King County Annexation Initiative Says:

    The King County Annexation Initiative established the email address in May of 2006. Please direct any future questions to: Thank you.

  5. We would like to further clarify the MOU and mediated agreement (with this last post below) and then all future posts and any new information regarding North Highline Annexation will be posted on King County’s website at:

    On December 4, 2008, the City of Burien and Seattle were parties to a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the potential annexation of the North Highline Unincorporated Area. While there has been some misunderstanding on what the Memorandum of Understanding means or actually does, it is our hope that this post will clear up those misconceptions.

    1. The Memorandum of Understanding is not an Interlocal Agreement for Annexation. The Memorandum establishes the framework for how the cities of Burien and Seattle, King County and the fire districts will work together to ensure a timely transition of unincorporated North Highline area to city status.

    2. The Memorandum of Understanding makes all parties agree not to interfere with an annexation election attempt(s). Bullet point #9 says “Representatives of the jurisdictions that are a party to this agreement (Seattle and Burien) commit to not interfere with each other’s annexation election attempts.

    This point is intended to underscore both Burien and Seattle’s commitment to having a decision to annex based on a vote by a majority of the residents in the respective annexation area.

    3. The Memorandum of Understanding supports legislation that provides funding parity to either Burien or Seattle if one of them annex the northern portion of the North Highline area (White Center, Top Hat, Arbor Heights, and unincorporated South Park). The $5 million limit means Burien or Seattle will get up to $5 million to provide municipal services to the residents in the area.

    If you have questions please feel free to contact the annexation initiative at: Again, all future posts and any new information regarding North Highline Annexation will be posted on King County’s website at:

    Thank you. – King County Annexation Initiative

  6. King County Annexation Initiative,
    I spoke to North Highline Unincorporated Area Council members and many more community residents and they were not aware that this e-mail address even existed for annexation questions.
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. KC Annexation Initiative, I hope you can answer a process question. Is the Seattle City Council going to review and vote on this agreement during an open Council meeting where there is opportunity for public comment? I couldn’t find anything on their website about it. Or is this agreement something the Seattle Mayor can sign onto without any opportunity for the public to weigh in and without it going through the Seattle City Council?

    I know that the Burien City Council was going to discuss it and possibly vote on it at their Council meeting this week, but that Council meeting was cancelled due to the weather. At that meeting. there was going to be an opportunity for public comment. I’ve heard that the Burien Council will now discuss and vote on this agreement at a Council meeting in January and there will be time during that meeting for people to testify and let them know how they feel about it.