By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of King County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Cox, murdered five years ago. Here’s what else happened:
ANNEXATION AND OTHER BURIEN UPDATES: City Manager Mike Martin took to the podium, as he does during most NHUAC meetings. “Nothing going on, as usual,” he joked. Annexation update: He noted that the governor’s budget now “gradually phases out” the sales-tax credit but would eliminate it for future annexations. “I’ve had conversations with the executive’s office as recently as last night,” he said, and mentioned that he went to Olympia “where I was mistaken for a member of the 99 percent,” he joked. He said he had talked to “a couple members of the House Ways and Means Committee” while there, explaining that it’s vital to keep the sales-tax credit. But even if they do, “that’s not enough,” he said, because of “the cloud of fear of having this taken away every year” — he said that’s the point he’s stressing to legislators. He says even though there is often the warning that “you can’t bind future legislators,” there are “ways of skinning that cat.” Bottom line, he says, “We’re working this very actively … Don’t despair; this is a long fight … we’ll hang in there and do what we can.” He doesn’t expect to know the outcome until next year, since “it’s all wrapped up in the whole budget proposal.” Burien isn’t the only city “in the same boat,” he acknowledged, when asked by NHUAC member Rebecca Lopes.
Also regarding annexation, Martin mentioned the Boundary Review Board hearing coming up January 9th. (You can see the board’s file on the Burien annexation proposal here.) Then that board will make its decision some weeks later. Asked by NHUAC member Ron Johnson if the board meeting is public, he affirmed that it is. (As it was back when the Boundary Review Board met to consider the previous Burien/North Highline annexation.) This time around, one big difference – the public hearing will be in this community, rather than elsewhere like last time.
Martin also mentioned that “despite all this budget drama all around us,” the City Council passed its budget in just two sessions. (You can find the budget documents on the Burien website, here.) And he says it’s the first time in his career that property-tax revenues are dropping because assessed valuations have dropped (which also means property-tax bills have dropped for residents). Cuts from the governor’s budget could mean as much as $400,000 in revenue lost for Burien, he said, but nonetheless, they have adopted a budget with no layoffs, among other things. He also congratulated NHUAC for its presence at the King County Library Board meeting (WCN coverage here) and getting the board to delay its vote. However, he said he wasn’t quite sure what the board was thinking in tying its action to whatever the Boundary Review Board is doing – since he’s sure that the board will approve the annexation. He says he still is hoping to sit down with the Library System “to fashion a solution that is acceptable to you and this community … we want to talk about it (with them).” He says it’s also important to not dig in, to have an intelligent discussion about solutions; without using the word “compromise,” he was clearly suggesting that may be needed. He mentioned the Lake Burien situation as an example. “It’s always helpful to take a wider view of these things.”
Burien Councilmember Rose Clark noted that in conversation after the Library Board action earlier this week, they also seemed to be waiting to see what would happen with the sales-tax credit as well as with the Boundary Review Board.
Rachael Levine of the White Center Library Guild said at that point that she agrees with Martin regarding finding an acceptable solution, but that she also appreciates all the support they’ve received (including the Burien Council letter read by Councilmember Clark during the meeting). She said she wished she could have gotten everyone to do a “mike check” as is done at Occupy demonstrations and chant “Save Our Library,” adding “I think the library problem has brought a lot of us together … strengthened us as a community, and helped us focus on what’s important.” People from other library districts, she said, advised her, “You’ll have to hang in there, as (the board’s) strategy is to wait you out.” She expressed optimism that a solution will be found. Martin then said, “The way this community has rallied around the libraries” was reminiscent of stories he had heard about Burien back in the third-runway-fight days: “We can organize, we can get together, we do have a voice, we are not helpless.” Giba said she was proud that the city of Burien had turned out to support them, as did County Councilmember Joe McDermott and a representative from County Executive Dow Constantine‘s office. “It felt good to have representation.”
KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: New storefront deputy B.J. Myers took the podium; he’s collected crime stats in a new format. Since other reps from the Center of Attention operation weren’t present, he summarized that “I haven’t heard much over the past month – a lot of what they’re doing has moved to the prosecution side.” He says Papa’s Pub is still appealing its liquor-license suspension, which apparently is now not scheduled to happen before next year. Also, he said, “we had several incidents at the GAME (medical-marijuana lounge)” this month, referring the DEA raids that happened in November. He says it appears that GAME has moved out of its White Center location, saying he has not seen the “open” sign nor has he seen “much left inside.” On the 17th, he says, deputies on foot patrol caught the Sorensen Marine business being broken into, “nice bit of work done by people just walking around our business district.” And he mentioned semitrucks parked on 4th SW long-term just south of Roxbury, some with refrigerated trailers “making noise all night long,” and says the deputies have been “out aggressively ticketing those” and hopes that will help take care of that problem. Back on the marijuana issue, councilmembers asked about the marijuana “farmers’ market” storefront on 16th SW supposedly having a “big (holiday) event” – he wasn’t aware. … Later in the meeting, Major Jim Graddon from KCSO talked about the commemoration tomorrow of Deputy Cox’s death. The major acknowledged that things are quiet.
DES MOINES MEMORIAL DRIVE: Burien Councilmember Rose Clark took to the podium to talk with the council about the road from 156th (Sunnydale Elementary) to 188th – regarding the Lake-to-Sound Trail that was planned for one side of it, and keeping improvements consonant with its historical status (which means even tree plantings, for example, need to be American Elms). “We are working very positively on the trail,” which is levy-funded, Lights are planned, and funding is still in the process of being obtained, like commemorative bollards, perhaps poppy plantings reminiscent of World War I, so they are forming a 501(c)(3) to help with that process. When they’re ready to raise money for the historical elements, Clark said, she is hopeful that people will join in and support the effort. Other areas of the drive, she added, are targeted for historical kiosks. Work on this section, she said, is expected to start in 2013.
KING COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: Karen Wolf from King County said they’re currently in the once-every-four-years process of considering “major amendments” to this plan. She said they have come up with a “public review draft” of the plan – it’s a “pretty thick document” but it’s available in libraries and it’s online, “which is how most people apparently look at it these days.” She says North Highline is not proposed for any zoning changes or other kinds of changes in the plan overhaul that’s on the table right now (she did mention the new “tiered” system under which King County roads are being managed). “What if somebody wanted to come along with a major development?” asked NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin. Wolf explained that if a development required a zoning change that would change the comprehensive plan, it would have to wait till this type of process every four years, but they haven’t had any requests for anything along those lines so far. She also explained that unlike some jurisdictions (Seattle, for example), the county doesn’t have “single-family” and “multi-family” zoning; instead, its plan focuses on density. With that sort of classification, she explained, a piece of land that might allow three units could either have them evenly spaced, or all clustered together on one side (or something inbetween). Dobkin explained that she was inquiring about a 30-unit development that was categorized as three separate projects but was really one, in her view. Gill Loring asked how land zoned for “office” could be changed into residential, and Wolf said the code did have a way to accommodate that – if it were developed mixed-use, with office and residential in a single development. Wolf says the rules don’t count offices so much as square footage, in saying what percentage of the buliding could be used for office or residential.
LIBRARY CONSOLIDATION: Early in the meeting, community member Gill Loring described the King County Library Board meeting earlier this week as “fascinating.” He also noted that some NHUAC members had left early last time. Later in the meeting, Karen Freeman from the County Executive’s staff said that they are hoping to talk more with the Library Board in the coming weeks. Giba asked about the process for being appointed to the Library Board; Freeman said that nominations/potential candidates’ names often come from staff, but in this case, there is an online application form for anybody interested. And she mentioned the discussion sparked by the last meeting about possibly making it an elected board instead of an appointed board. (There’s more information about the library board here.) The question of a board vacancy has some urgency now because Judge Richard Eadie, who is the current board president, is expected to leave at the end of his term. Freeman said she didn’t know that anyone had expressed interest in joining the board. (According to the county website, board members serve five-year terms.) There was a general murmuring around the room that board terms “are too long.” Clark noted that Burien’s advisory boards have four-year terms. Freeman said she would get more information about the timeline for making an appointment. … Later in the meeting, Dobkin said another library petition will be started during this Saturday’s White Center Summit (see below).
TRANSITIONING: NHUAC is transitioning out of being a county-funded group, so had some financial logistics to discuss tonight. They have liability insurance for next year, it was reported. …Later in the meeting, there was discussion of how to handle council elections in the future, whether district positions or at-large positions would be best. Johnson also suggested, “I think we should make more of an outreach to the Boulevard Park area,” because it didn’t seem to be as well-represented as it used to be; even though some of it has been annexed to Burien, it still comprises 25 percent of the unincorporated area, it was noted.
DEALING WITH HOMELESSNESS: The new coalition of business and nonprofits was brought up briefly; so was the matter of younger homeless people being seen in the downtown WC area. Major Graddon says he has seen that in other areas of the country as well but is not sure why.
COMMITTEE REPORTS: Regarding Parks, Christine Waldman said the tennis courts at Steve Cox Memorial Park are open now. Also mentioned, the Seola Gardens area has a prospective development offer from Quadrant Homes, to build 60 for-sale homes in stages, said Pat Price – maybe 10 or 12 a year. There was also some discussion of the status of the existing for-sale homes in the area. Dobkin said some property behind those sites had been acquired to keep it from falling into blight that might affect the sales of those homes. Greenbridge, though, is waiting for a developer, according to Price. There was also some discussion of the apparent tax-exempt status of the existing Seola Gardens homes; Dobkin said she checked the King County Parcel Viewer and that shows the homes are tax-exempt even though they have been sold – she says they were told the homes “would be taxed at normal rates” once they had buyers. … When the Transportation Committee’s update came up, Elizabeth Gordon from Uncle Mike’s Superlicious BBQ talked about trouble on the downtown 16th stretch, involving the light sequencing backing up traffic, so people are avoiding 16th and using 15th instead. “And as a business on 16th, that’s bad,” said Gordon. Dobkin also wondered about the relatively new raised divider in the middle of the street; Johnson said they might bring someone out from the county to talk about that at a future meeting.He also mentioned that cables are being laid for sequencing changes in the lights, involving some cameras that will help with that, which could lead to an “improvement in traffic flow … within the next month or two.” Also on the transportation front, the NHUAC letter to Metro asking for a review of the zone boundary has drawn a response – saying that the change could result in higher fares for many people. (Here’s the response letter, as posted to the NHUAC website.) Dobkin mentioned a traffic problem that could affect some area drivers – the closure, as of this week, of the Airport Way bridge in Georgetown. “It’s pretty horrible what they’ve done on this side of town,” regarding so much construction at the same time, she noted. … Dobkin says they’re still working on the planting beds (might not be able to get plants into them till after winter), including trying to find a way to keep people from driving over them, which she said has already happened once.
PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS: First, from the council: The White Center Library Guild‘s Holiday Bazaar is this Saturday, Pat Price reminded everybody, 11 am-3 pm: “It’s a small little bazaar, but please try to support it.” At 2 pm, a magician will perform in the meeting room at the Library, for the kids who are in attendance … This Saturday also is the White Center Summit at WC Heights Elementary School, 10 am-3 pm … She also reminded everyone of the December 8th meeting of the White Center-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition meeting at 6 pm … Then from the audience: Gill Loring reminded everyone of the next North Highline Fire Commissioners’ meeting next Tuesday (including newly elected commissioner Liz Giba), 10 am at NH Fire District HQ (which is where NHUAC meets) … Aileen Sison also wanted to remind everyone of the business groups presenting the White Center Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration on Sunday, December 11th, 5 pm at 16th and Roxbury (as reported earlier today on WCN) … There will be an Ugly Sweater party Saturday at Company, and White Center Heights Elementary students are making art for ornaments on the tree, she said, also during the sweater party/contest … She also told everyone about the “door-decorating contest” that is under way in White Center, using a polling feature on Facebook – you’ll be able to vote as the door photos go up. The deadline is December 23rd, she said.