County and Burien say they’ve worked out the Puget Sound Park controversy

January 6th, 2010 Tracy Posted in King County, Puget Sound Park, White Center news Comments Off on County and Burien say they’ve worked out the Puget Sound Park controversy

This just in from County Executive Dow Constantine‘s office:

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Burien Mayor Joan McGilton today announced an agreement for King County to transfer ownership of Puget Sound Park to the city of Burien.

“We were able to resolve this in a way that sets the right tone for this new era in King County government,” said Mayor McGilton. “I thank the County Executive for his leadership to reach a fair agreement on the parks transfer.”

“A deal’s a deal, and it was the city’s understanding of the annexation process that it would receive six parks from the County, including Puget Sound Park,” said Executive Constantine. “After detailed discussions, I agree that transfer of the park to the city is the right thing to do and should occur as part of that larger annexation.”

Voters in the southern portion of the North Highline Potential Annexation Area (PAA) approved their annexation by the city of Burien in August 2009. City Council action to implement the annexation was held up after the previous County administration entered into negotiations to sell part of Puget Sound Park to a third party.

Before taking office in November, then-Councilmember Constantine asked the previous Executive to slow down the proposed sale, in order to have more time to talk with the city about the proposal. Deputy County Executive Fred Jarrett appeared before the City Council on December 7 to hear the city’s position.

The proposed interlocal agreement must be approved by both the Burien City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council.

The City Council is expected to set the effective date for the annexation of the North Highline PAA at its next meeting on January 11.

More as we get it. ADDED 6:34 PM: We asked Frank Abe in the County Executive’s office what this means to the previous proposal for part of the park site. His reply: “We’ve let the King County Library System know of the new Executive’s agreement to transfer the park to the city. The city could pursue that option if it chooses to do so, within the restrictions of state law that governs the transfer of parks such as this.”

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Puget Sound Park update, from Dow Constantine’s office

November 23rd, 2009 Tracy Posted in Parks, Puget Sound Park, White Center news Comments Off on Puget Sound Park update, from Dow Constantine’s office

Update to the Puget Sound Park situation (reported here late Friday) – Talked Saturday with Joe Woods from King County Executive-elect Dow Constantine‘s team. He says Constantine is asking that outgoing King County Executive Kurt Triplett not proceed with any deals before the change in command on Tuesday afternoon; Woods is short on specifics of what the “deal” involving Puget Sound Park might be, but he says it appears to be “something the current executive was pursuing to plug the budget hole and help fund the rest of the unincorporated parks that were at risk, according to his plan that came out this summer” – and whatever this is, it progressed further than other possibilities had. Woods says they’re hopeful the soon-to-be-ex-county-executive will appreciate the about-to-be-county-executive’s request not to strike a deal. We’ll be checking in with various parties Monday to see where all this stands.

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Puget Sound Park’s future cloudy again: What we’ve found out so far

November 20th, 2009 Tracy Posted in Puget Sound Park, White Center news Comments Off on Puget Sound Park’s future cloudy again: What we’ve found out so far

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Seven months ago, Puget Sound Park in White Center was reported to be in danger of being sold by King County for a housing project. A citizen outcry resulted in county promises that it would not be put up for sale. Now suddenly, its future appears to be in play again; we got a call this afternoon from Greg Duff of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, who’d worked hard to save the park last spring, saying he’d learned it might suddenly be on the brink of sale after all. We’ve been working since then to see what we could find out. Here’s what we know so far:

King County Parks won’t elaborate on exactly what is in the works. Jessie Israel, who’s returned to her parks division management job fulltime after a run for Seattle City Council, says they might have news next week – but for now, all she can say is: “We’re not selling a park – we’re looking for partners who will work with us to keep parks open to the public.” She said “several parks in North Highline and White Center” are being looked at in this regard; we asked repeatedly why the county would be looking at anything right now involving a park like Puget Sound Park that’s about to be turned over to the City of Burien, and Israel would only say “there are a good number of conversations that have started with the intent of keeping all White Center parks open. We are looking forward to working with Burien … our goal is really to figure out how to keep parks open to the public as public assets.”

“Working with Burien” did not seem to have been going on before we spoke with city manager Mike Martin earlier in the afternoon (after putting in the first call to King County Parks). He told us, “We don’t have a lot of information – what I know is that we have been told that the county intends to sell that property to a buyer, we don’t know who, we don’t know how firm that is.” He stressed that he too was still working to find out more, but what he’s heard so far indicated, “(The county) basically asked for anyone willing to buy the property to step forward … apparently they have a buyer. It would be nice to know (more). I am told they want to use some of the money, some would go to Burien, some of the money … to spread among some of the remaining (county) parks, for what purpose, I don’t know.”

Then he took on an even more grim tone: “I can tell you for certain that selling a five-acre park two and a half months before we’re supposed to annex, flies in the face of anything that might be interpreted as good public policy, or good for the North Highline residents … so what we’re doing is sending a letter to the County Council, and to (County Executive-elect) Dow (Constantine), asking what their intentions are.”

Martin went on to say that if he doesn’t get an assurance that the park is not about to be sold, Burien might push back the date when it actually officially annexes the “North Highline South” area. “At Monday’s Burien City Council meeting, we were to have set the date for annual annexation, March 2nd. Until we get clarity (regarding the park), I will recommend that we delay. It’s not something I recommend lightly, but I can’t make a proposal when I don’t know what the game is. I hope the county understands that if we have to delay annexation, it will cost them money” — in urban services they will have to provide longer than they planned.

Martin went on to reiterate that this turn of events is “a big deal.”

We also sent messages to Constantine and key staffers, but did not hear back from anyone; he had made the announcement last time that Puget Sound Park was off the table. He’s to be sworn in to his new job on Tuesday.

We’ll keep working to find out what’s happening and will report when there’s an update.

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Puget Sound Park off the sale list: Greg Duff’s postscript

April 14th, 2009 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, Puget Sound Park Comments Off on Puget Sound Park off the sale list: Greg Duff’s postscript

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We want to share this letter, sent to us as a followup to yesterday’s report (and our previous coverage, archived here). We appreciate WCN being included in the kind words – we were somewhat latecomers to the issue, but will continue working to do a better job, day by day, covering the news that matters to White Center. From Greg Duff:

When Ron Sims sent Rod Brandon and Nori Catabay to the NHUAC meeting to inform us about the possible sale of Puget Sound Park to build affordable housing, I think maybe they thought they were going to get a free ride. I think they were trying to slip one past us by letting us know that this could not possibly happen before the annexation vote.

Imagine our surprise when just a short time later King County put out a Request for Qualifications to buyers for the Park. Ron Sims underestimated the power of an irate citizen. I think Ron Sims is shocked at how smart North Highline people are.

The NHUAC mounted a campaign to inform the King County Councilmen of what was happening. Mike Martin, City Manager of Burien, went to bat for his town. The White Center Now blog did what a good free press should do and informed the public exactly what was happening.

Because of these efforts, the park was pulled off the list of potential sale sites. This is a great day for the little guy.

I would like to personally thank the citizens of North Highline and Burien who got involved and fought against this injustice. I would like to thank Mike Martin. Mike is truly a good man with a heart for his city. No society can truly be free without a voice from the people and the White Center Now blog is that voice. I would truly like to thank the members of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council. These volunteer citizens are out there fighting for you. I am proud to be able to serve on the council with these fine people.

Thank You
Greg Duff
NHUAC Member

We have lots more to write about regarding the people of White Center continuing to work hard for their community, and are always honored when you choose to share information with us at White Center Now:

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Constantine: Puget Sound Park off the list

April 13th, 2009 Tracy Posted in Parks, Puget Sound Park Comments Off on Constantine: Puget Sound Park off the list

We’d spoken with two county executive staffers about this last week and hadn’t even finished the followup yet, but now it’s a moot point – this just in from County Council Chair Dow Constantine:

Constantine: Puget Sound Park no longer under consideration as housing site

“I was pleased to learn today that Puget Sound Park has been removed from consideration as a demonstration project site for King County’s Sustainable Communities and Affordable Housing program.

“I support efforts to create needed additional workforce housing in our communities. At the same time, our public parks—both active and passive—are valuable assets to their surrounding neighborhoods and King County that must be preserved and enhanced whenever possible.”

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Constantine to Sims: Take Puget Sound Park off the list now

April 3rd, 2009 Tracy Posted in Puget Sound Park, White Center news 4 Comments »

(click to see a larger version of the letter)
Following up on last night’s update of the Puget Sound Park sale-proposal situation – that’s the letter County Council Chair Dow Constantine has just written to County Executive Ron Sims, asking him to take the park off the list of land he’s seeking to convert into “affordable housing” — as noted on this county webpage — or else, Constantine writes, if PS Park is still on the list when it gets to the County Council, he’ll move to take it off through legislation. We’ll be checking with the County Executive’s office for their response.

FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE: While we haven’t yet received a direct response from the County Executive, his staff is working to arrange a chance for us to talk Monday with his point people on this project. We’ll let you know what we find out.

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North Highline UAC report #1: Puget Sound Park sale fight

April 2nd, 2009 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, Parks, Politics, Puget Sound Park, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline UAC report #1: Puget Sound Park sale fight

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First of two reports from tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting — this one, focusing on the intensifying controversy over the county proposal to sell Puget Sound Park (as reported here yesterday, it’s already accepted “submittals” from firms interested in buying up to five county park sites to build “affordable housing”).

Toward the start of tonight’s meeting, council member Barb Peters read a letter the NHUAC sent to outgoing County Executive Ron Sims expressing opposition to any sale of Puget Sound Park.

James Bush, from the office of County Council Chair Dow Constantine, stood up and said the sale proposal’s not going anywhere. Constantine himself reiterated that in an e-mail to us after the meeting, saying in part:

… as far as I am concerned, we’re not selling Puget Sound Park. The Council would have to approve such an action, and my position has been clear:

1) Park land is precious and is not to be parted with except under extraordinary circumstances; and

2) Puget Sound Park is within Burien’s intended annexation area and any decision about changing the park can and should wait until after that annexation happens.

Burien city manager Mike Martin was at tonight’s meeting too and warned NHUAC members not to leave anything to chance, saying they have to get the county executive to remove the park from the list. From what he’s seen, he says he’s clear that “the project is alive.”

Each council member agreed to contact a King County Councilmember tomorrow to get the message out; Constantine also tells us that we should know within a few days whether he has a majority of councilmembers on the no-sale side.

NHUAC is also considering further public outreach about the controversy, possibly leafletting neighborhoods, even organizing a picnic. We’ll follow up with Constantine and his staff to keep you up to date on what happens next.

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Puget Sound Park sale opponent issues a call to action

March 31st, 2009 Tracy Posted in King County, Parks, Puget Sound Park, White Center news 4 Comments »

Much controversy and concern has been brewing around the prospect of King County selling parkland in North Highline, including Puget Sound Park, for “affordable housing” — here’s the full list of what the county put up for sale, five properties, with a request for submittals suggesting they would prefer that all five go to the same developer.

Three firms responded, according to online records: DevCo, Quadrant Homes, and Shelter Resources. The next step in the process is not clearly spelled out online. During a recent interview, we asked outgoing County Executive Ron Sims about this, and he said that the intent is for the county to replace the sold parkland with open space somewhere else. That’s not what North Highline opponents of the sale want to see happen, like Greg Duff of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (which will discuss the sale status during its meeting this Thursday). He writes:

It’s time for the citizens of Burien and North Highline to say something to Mr. Ron Sims about his underhanded attempt to sell off Puget Sound Park located at 126th and 1st Ave. South to contractors for affordable housing (another word for low income). Anyone who watched channel 4 news this weekend saw that this area is part of the proposed annexation area of Burien. Mr. Sims wants to sell off this park and leave Burien with more low income housing. Mike Martin, Burien city manager, is opposed to this idea. We need this park and unless we speak up we are going to lose one of the largest open spaces left in North Highline. Write Mr. Sims and let him know you are opposed to it. Maybe he’ll read your e-mail because channel 4 tried for 2 weeks to reach him and he never returned any calls. Maybe he is too concerned with moving to Washington DC to actually take care of King County.

The park sale plan is under “old business” on the agenda for this Thursday’s NHUAC meeting, 7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ.

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