7:06 PM: We’re at Burien City Hall to cover the last council meeting before the “Area Y” annexation vote, just to see what, if anything, is said by the public, and by the council and city manager. 4 people have signed up to speak so far, according to Mayor Brian Bennett. We’ll chronicle this live.
The first speaker is on a topic other than the annexation vote – a proposed zoning change.
Next speaker is Rachael Levine. She says she is here to comment on “some unfortunate news out there in the community that led to a complaint by the Public Disclosure Commission about NHUAC and Barbara Dobkin. When I learned about that, I wrote e-mail to the (commission) itself.” She reads what she wrote to the commission, saying she wanted to be clear about who was responsible about a flyer that was at the NHUAC booth during White Center Jubilee Days. “In the matter of the complaint filed by Chestine Edgar on July 24, I wish to identify myself as the sole provider of the information on the flyer and the payment for the processing of these flyers. No group was in any way involved in this. I brought the flyers to the NHUAC booth at Jubilee Days for dsitribution because I’ve been actively involved in the community efforts to prevent the consolidation of the Boulevard Park and White Center libraries, I provided (this information). I recognize my error, which was made in haste, and not intended to mislead.” She said she has apologized to Dobkin “for my error, which has been used by Ms. Edgar and others to diminish the good name of an organization, NHUAC, which has worked tirelessly for the good of the North Highline community.” She said she is bringing this to the council’s attention to say that “in no way was NHUAC responsible for this piece of information,” though she added, “The information in this flyer is totally true,” based on KCLS information saying that they will not make a decision on the libraries’ fate until after tomorrow’s vote.
7:13 PM: Levine is followed by Elizabeth Gordon, co-owner of Uncle Mike’s Superlicious Barbecue in White Center. “I am here also to dispel any information or rumors that has come up via the op-ed in the Seattle Times by Mark Ufkes and Don Malo or some of the interviews that have been given to TV stations saying that all businesses are against annexation and do not support annexation.” She notes that she and her husband, as well as Doug Harrell of Roxbury Lanes, and Justin Cline of Full Tilt wrote and signed a letter contributed to the Seattle Times as well as other news sources (including here on WCN) regarding their support for annexation and what they feel would be its benefits – you can read that letter here. “The other thing we are concerned about is the divisive nature of the exchange of information .. if the community is going to come together to thrive and grow, we need to know each other and (cooperate).” She said the way some of the information has come out from annexation opponents has been divisive and trust-breaking, and mentioned that a pro-annexation sign put up in front of her business led to vandalism; she went on to discuss sign problems since then. “People want to stir things up,” she said, concluding that there are businesses who do support annexation to Burien.
Following Gordon was Bob Price, a Boulevard Park resident. who said somewhat wryly, “I came down to say that I have been reading all the articles in the paper and the blog and the signs … and I want to compliment people, (because) in several places they have almost told the truth.”
After Price, Barbara Dobkin, speaking as president of NHUAC. “I want to thank the council for the courage, foresight, and vision in pursuing the annexation vote … nothing about this past year has been easy … fearmongering and scare tactics perpertuated by a small roup of people opposed to annexation … The opposition called Independent White Center is mostly supported by a group of Three Tree Point and Lake Burien residents, so I wonder what they are talking about when (they talk about independence) … This has been a difficult year for all of us; the council has come under attack, all unjustified. We doa service to the community; we are now being told we were a PAC and we were violating PDC regulations and a lot of things that aren’t true. We are a nonprofit but not a 501c3 or 4, our status does not prohibit us from entering into campaigning for ballot measures. The council voted that we favor Burien annexation and we have every right to educate the community about hte facts and that’s what we have been doing. Our forum with high-level people was called by the other side a ‘dog and pony show’ … we are trying to bring the facts to the community to educate the community, that is what we do.” When we have in our community the president of the White Center Chamber of Commerce telling small businesses that they will have to pay new taxes and cannot put signs on the windows, that Burien may come in and shut them down …this is irresponsible … Let’s get the facts, let’s have people make up their mind, we can’t tell anyone how to vote but we can educate them. I want to thank the members of the council … Mike Martin … whatever happens tomorrow, we’ll go forward, we’ll live, we’ll still be neighbors, and we’ll still have to get along.”
7:20 PM: Gill Loring of White Center spoke after Dobkin. “I wasn’t going to say anything tonight but … I believe in democracy, I believe in the right to vote …” He noted that he have seen attacks in media sources, and “I think I know all these people, have met them over the years, meetings I’ve gone to, projects I’ve helped with over the years, they want what’s best for the community, that’s what I want to … We have a wonderful diverse community up there and we want to see it become part of Burien.” Loring said somebody stole a pro-annexation sign out of his yard yesterday; a neighbor alerted him and he says he knows who did it, “but the point is – why don’t they just leave the signs be? There are probably 5 times as many ‘no’ signs, but I don’t go take them down … I keep seeing attacks from the other side, and I just don’t understand them. Let’s have a good vote; I appreciate the council letting us vote.”
And that was the end of the public comment. If anything else related to annexation comes up during the meeting, we will add it. The next major item is adoption of the city budget, so that may have some points of interest, given that White Center and vicinity residents are deciding whether or not to become part of this city.
7:44 PM UPDATE: The council is getting ready to vote on the budget; Councilmember Bob Edgar says he will be a no vote because he doesn’t think it should be approved pre-annexation; Councilmember Jerry Robison says it’ll be months, even if annexation is approved, before it takes effect, so he doesn’t think there’s any point in holding off the vote. Councilmember Jack Block, Jr. now says he will be voting no as well, citing two objections; one involved a new organizational chart that shows the citizenry at the top, and a staff member says that change actually has been made and will be reflected soon. Deputy Mayor Rose Clark now voices her support for the budget, even though the only version they’ve seen is preliminary, and there will at some point later be a final version. After her, Councilmember Joan McGilton mentions that the council has discussed the budget “thoroughly” over a number of preceding meetings … and that the council decided not to raise property tax to balance the budget, instead making a one-time general-fund transfer. “Any delay at this point is not in the interest of Burien residents.” The budget passes 4-3.
7:52 PM: Now up – a presentation about zoning in North Burien. It’s a followup to the previous annexation, two years later. Some things have to be done, the council is told – some are things they “want to do.” The area needs “comprehensive plan and zoning designations” to replace the “interim zoning” that has been in place since the area was annexed.
8:12 PM: A copious amount of background is being presented, including a map showing that most of the land is residentially zoned. It’s noted that there was public outreach and that it resulted in some changes to the proposal. There are few changes, the briefer said, but along the Ambaum corridor, there’s one – the west side should resort to high-rise multifamily development, which is the standard to which many pre-existing buildings were built anyway. There are commercial nodes along the way – Ambaum and Boulevard Park among them.
The final vote on this won’t be tonight; the council launches into discussion. Councilmember Robison talks about some pre-existing businesses who could be affected by changes. He says he’s concerned that a lot of properties are involved, many being downzoned without specific notice that “we’re going to downzone your property.” He notes that the message during the annexation campaign two years ago was that Burien zoning would be consistent with what was happening in the unincorporated area, but that did not mean something like this, which could affect businesses, even if they were allowed to keep operating as “nonconforming uses.” He wants to see individual property owners get individualized notices of the specific proposed changes before anything is finalized.
There was extensive discussion, including what constituted Burien’s urban center – which currently includes just the official downtown, staff told the council.
Later in the discussion, there was additional support for Councilmember Robison’s suggestion of individual notices regarding downzones. City Manager Martin said he’ll check with staff to make sure that won’t be too onerous. Mayor Bennett also suggested a public hearing. And it was clarified at the end that there is no rush to finalize this – a suggested December deadline, according to Martin, is not the case after all. The mayor said, “We should plan for significant input from the council and from the public.”
9:22 PM: The City Manager’s report talked about an audit for the new animal-control services; Councilmember Block suggested delaying it because it had only been up and running a short time. Other councilmembers agreed; Block suggests the audit move to February, and that’s how Martin will proceed, provided his preferred auditor is available.
The city attorney discussed the ongoing talks regarding Burien Town Square with Harbor Urban and the attempt to hold off the city’s proposal to take back the project; the deadline will be pushed back up to three months because progress is being made, he said, without giving specifics. He said Harbor Urban is getting close to something relating to Burien’s vision for the project. The motion to push back the deadline passed unanimously.