North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s April meeting spotlights the Subarea Plan
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
The plan intended to shape North Highline’s future is advancing through the branches of King County government, and it held centerstage at this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting.
NORTH HIGHLINE SUBAREA PLAN: The meeting began with an encore appearance by Jacqueline Reid, who is now the plan’s point person. King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s recommended version of the plan has gone to the King County Council.
The document was sent to the council at the end of March. It’s all part of an update to the county comprehensive plan, so it’s accompanying documents covering other areas of the county, and some code amendments. When you get to the list of documents (follow the links here), just look for the North Highline Community Service Area Subarea Plan link. It’s now in the County Council review phase, so that’s where to direct questions and concerns. Reid summarized all the comments they’d received and how they’d tried to reach people.
You can see the comments, she said, by going here: https://www.publicinput.com/northhighline Here’s a few toplines of what Reid said they heard:
Then she hit some toplines of the proposed plan itself, starting with zoning classifications:
That’s an “overview map,” she stressed. Color coding indicates where a change is proposed. Map Amendment 4 is what would make the zoning changes.
She said one block of parcels proposed for upzoning was removed because it wasn’t close to frequent transit after all, while they added some near White Center Library. Feedback, meantime, is keeping the south block on this view as industrial
A “pedestrian overlay” will ban marijuana production/processing among other rules:
In downtown White Center, zoning will be for up to 55′ height. They also will limit businesses to 5,000 square feet.
They’re implementing Inclusionary Housing, with a preference for people “with ties” to the area. Reid went through some policies spelled out by the Subarea Plan:
In Q&A, Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Kennamer wondered about the plan for increasing infrastructure and supports – public safety, schools, etc. – if all the potential density comes to fruition. Yes, they have to consider the plan’s “implications,” replied Reid. Then King County Councilmember Joe McDermott noted that just because something is rezoned doesn’t mean anyone is required to redevelopment.
NHUAC’s Liz Giba wondered about the “opportunity zone” designation and how that factors into rezoning. King Countys Hugo Garcia said it won’t overlap with the business district – it’s a federal designation and it hasn’t drawn much interest so far.
Giba also noted the poverty levels in the Highline Public Schools elementaries in the area; Reid said the county was committed to developing partnerships with agencies and departments. “We need to focus on opportunity for everyone,” Giba declared.
She then wondered what ever happened to White Center’s microhousing pilot project. McDermott said it was about streamlining the permit process, so they approved the idea of two projects. Two sites have been selected, one on Vashon and one in WC, he said, and the council has adopted legislation specifying those two projects, but he had no further details. (We’ll follow up.)
NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin noted that developers have “exploited” areas where lots were platted at 2,500 sf and said that she’d been told over the years that the “loopholes” would be addressed, but they never have. She wondered what loopholes would turn up in this rezoning. King County’s Jim Chan said the market is pricing itself to the point that density is naturally being maxed out. Developers will find a way “to squeeze every inch” of potential density out of property ‘because it pencils out for them,” he observed. The lack of infrastructure supporting that dense development was Dobkin’s major concern. A discussion of the Community Needs list ensued.
to a question about building safety, Chan said they’re hiring – more building inspectors, for example. They’re having a tough time finding people, but they do have openings to fill.
Dobkin brought it back around to: “You keep saying we’re an urban area, but we don’t have the amenities of an urban area” – no sidewalks, not even mandatory trash pickup.” McDermott said, “You’re right,” but noted that the “funding model” of living in an unincorporated area doesn’t support all the amenities and services. “The county’s funding doesn’t exist in the same way that a city has funding opportunities” – fewer ways to raise funds, for example. And that’s why it would benefit North Highline to annex to a neighboring city, he contended, “Yes, we’ve heard all that,” she said. “Annexation is not happening, and we don’t see that in our future.” McDermott suggested they lobby cities if they feel it would be “advantageous.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The Local Services and Land Use Committee will be having briefings and discussions later this month – some action may happen June 21st, and then the SEPA (environmental review process) will launch, continuing into fall.
NEW SHERIFF: McDermott was asked about the announcement of three finalists for King County Sheriff. It’s the King County Executive’s decision to choose the sheriff and send the nomination to the council, McDermott confirmed. He pointed out that the announcement mentioned two public forums – April 18th and 21st.
IN-PERSON MEETINGS? The North Highline Fire District HQ is undergoing some renovations and the meeting room is being used as temporary living quarters through fall, so there’s no venue until then.
DEPUTY KENNAMER: He mentioned traffic troubles (including the 8th/Roxbury crash earlier in the day). Crime stats – a significant increase in commercial burglaries (200 percent); residential burglaries (67%) – 9 and 10 in the past month, respectively. Car thefts more than doubled – six of the seven larcenies were catalytic-converter thefts. He mentioned the pot-shop robberies early last month, “probably the same people who are robbing all the pot shops.” There was a shooting on 14th on March 20th, and the carjacking from the Vintage complex in which teenagers were involved/arrested. Several gunfire incidents with no injuries, too.
NEXT MEETING: NHUAC meets at 7 pm first Thursdays, so the next meeting will be May 5th.
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