Will Burien pursue annexation? Vote of intent could come as soon as next week
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
After three months of intensive discussion about potential annexation of most of the rest of North Highline (as we’ve chronicled here), the Burien City Council is finally on the brink of deciding whether to proceed full speed ahead.
During last night’s two-hour-plus council meeting, they asked staff to prepare a resolution for them to vote on, possibly as soon as next week – a resolution that if passed would indicate their intent to annex.
But that vote was a close one – four councilmembers in favor of having that resolution drawn up, three (Brian Bennett, Lucy Krakowiak, Jack Block Jr.) opposed. The major concern: It’s “premature” — as in, what’s the hurry? General consensus among opponents was that Seattle still has no intent of proceeding toward annexation, having just announced another cut-laden budget plan hours earlier, so Burien doesn’t have to rush into things.
And there was one revelation – if Burien annexes White Center (etc.), its existing marijuana businesses may be out of business, as city leaders said they deny business licenses to those types of establishments now, and would require any businesses in an annexed area to apply for a license.
Council discussion, and the initial vote, followed a public-comment period in which they heard from mostly familiar commenters. Our summaries of those comments, and councilmembers’, ahead:
Our notes from the public comments:
*Rebecca Wells: 15-year White Center resident, urged council to vote to pursue annexation of White Center (etc.) She thinks it would be a “good fit” for both Burien and White Center.
*Philip Levine: North Highline resident who has long been active in White Center community and is currently living in North Burien. “Annexation will define what a community really is,” he declared.
*Rachael Levine: Also a North Highline resident who has long been active in White Center community and is currently living in North Burien, said she is looking forward to living in a “bigger and more diverse community.”
*Bob Edgar cited the city’s responsibility to its “current residents.” He cited concern about the decline of assessed property values, particularly in unannexed North Highline.
*Joey Martinez said he talked to a lot of fellow Burien residents this summer and found 15 percent for annexation, 15 percent against it, and 70 percent either didn’t know or didn’t care. He noted that “the do-nothing approach is untenable.” An area of concern he voiced was the fact that if Seattle annexed White Center (etc.), the area still would be part of Highline Public Schools, so Burien residents would be paying for schools within the Seattle city limits.
*Ed Dacy, Burien resident, who ran recently for City Council and said it was not an issue “on the list” of any voters with whom he spoke during his campaign. He noted that if annexation is pursued, it could be time for Burien to consider forming a full-fledged Fire Department, rather than continuing to operate under a Fire District.
*Mark Ufkes, White Center resident, who said he had long felt that residents in that area deserved the highest level of services. Seattle provides twice as many police officers per 1,000 residents as Burien, he said. He also said Seattle has more firefighters, recalling a fire in Arbor Heights last month in which he said “70 professional firefighters” were presented, while, he said, the entirety of Burien’s fire district has 35 firefighters.
*John Poitras, Burien resident, saying he has no problem with annexation “from a humanitarian standpoint. … However, in these times one really has to look at the numbers.” He urged, “There is no reason to rush into this.”
*JJ Greive, Burien resident, said, “I’m excited about Burien annexing White Center.” He grew up in West Seattle and has lived in what is now North Burien for 12 years. He said he feels “Burien will be a much better steward of White Center than Seattle would.”
*Suzanne Greive, North Burien resident, also expressed support for annexation and worried that without it, there would be a “further concentration of poverty.”
*Sandy Hopp, who said she is also a newly incorporated North Burien resident. She expressed support for annexation, saying it would be “diversify(ing) the gene pool” for Burien.
*Chestine Edgar, Burien resident, voiced concern about the accuracy of some of the cost numbers from previous annexation reports. She had one White Center specific concern, asking the council “how (would you) address the marijuana lounges (in White Center)” if annexed.
*Bob Price, North Highline resident, said he thought Seattle’s mayor would love to have the budget picture Burien is enjoying
*Gill Loring, North Highline resident, wanted to make a few corrections on previous reports, saying he had never seen NH residents ask Seattle to annex them and then ask Burien to annex them. Also, he mentioned the Arbor Heights fire cited by Ufkes earlier, and pointed out that the firefighters, however many were there, had water-access problems (as reported on our partner site West Seattle Blog).
*Bob Edgar spoke again, wondering how budget-report consultants Berk would factor in the possibility of worse recession problems. He suggested that the council should delay consideration for a few years “to see if the economy is really on the road to recovery …”
*Phillip Levine spoke again, as did Ed Dacy. Both called to attention details of the financial report.
*Rachael Levine spoke again, saying “I don’t see that there is any reason to wait” and suggested that North Highline would benefit from “more outreach” by Burien.
*Jerry Robison: He mostly refuted what some speakers had presented as pro-Seattle points: Regarding assessor Lloyd Hara‘s recent speech about falling property values, he noted that’s affecting almost everyone everywhere. Seattle needs more police officers because it has “more crime areas,” he declared. He suggested Seattle “may need 70 firefighters (at a fire) because they have to carry buckets” and that it had faulty equipment.
(Mayor Joan McGilton noted that Seattle is staffed according to “union considerations.”)
*Gordon Shaw: “I’d like to step back a bit and ask everybody to think about why we are here.” He answered that: “Because the State Legislature provided a mandate, I guess you would call it, to have all of these municipal areas that were in the unincorporated county annexed to a municipal government of some kind, or to form their own city.” For that reason, he said, he doesn’t think skepticism about state sales-tax credit money is warranted – “they all want this to happen.” He said, “I won’t vote for annexation … unless we are certain it will be revenue-neutral for the city of Burien,” at least for the foreseeable future.
*Lucy Krakowiak: She also brought up the questions about confidence in the sales-tax credit and what would be done about the “marijuana lounges.” Burien has denied such business licenses, she was told by the city attorney, who said that the North Burien annexation gave existing businesses a “grace period” to become licensed, and would expect that to be the case here. “If we did receive applications for that type of business, we would deny it.”
*Robison chimed in on the marijuana discussion, saying, “Personally, I have a problem with (a city) licensing what is a federal crime.” He asked city manager Mike Martin to prepare a draft resolution voicing intent to annex, for consideration at the next meeting.
Krakowiak said she would vote against that, considering it “premature.”
Robison: “If we don’t move forward at least at this level, we’re just going to muck around for the foreseeable future.”
Mayor McGilton said she supported the idea “just to keep some forward momentum.”
Councilmember Jack Block Jr. said he believes it’s too soon to move forward, “there are too many questions on the table.” He voiced concerns about the eight-digit backlog of capital projects in the North Highline area, and he feels it’s . “My first and foremost duty is to the present citizens of Burien.” He said “I would love to see (North Highline) be part of Burien,” eventually. He didn’t think there’s any danger Seattle would move pre-emptively to annex, even if Burien delayed.
After a few councilmembers explained their voting intentions, the vote was 4-3 in favor of having the resolution drafted for “possible” action next week.
Last night’s meeting is recorded on video in its entirety, as is usually the case for Burien, and available for you to watch by going here.
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