By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council tackled a variety of topics in its last 2022 meeting, held online last Thursday night. Two scheduled guests weren’t able to attend due to illness, so the meeting ran shorter than usual. NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin facilitated.
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL SERVICES: Director John Taylor was the night’s spotlight guest. He has led the department since it was created four years ago “to do a better job of being a municipal government for unincorporated King County” – in which a quarter-million people live, in “a huge geographical area.” He had a variety of updates – the county’s first participatory budgeting round, which split $10 million among five areas, with decisions made by a group with representatives of each area (including 5 from White Center/North Highline). This area got about $3 million, in turn spread among about a dozen programs. “Project awards are in the process of going on right now.” (We covered the funding announcement here.) He says the newly adopted county budget has another $10 million for the next participatory-budgeting round and the county will again look for community members to get involved. “It’s an opportunity to get real money into the community.”
Other budget items of note – the Conservation Corps will continue in White Center and expand to other unincorporated areas – “removing graffiti, picking up litter … at least a couple days a week.’ Economic-development work will continue too. He noted that “community-needs lists” were used to prioritize spending this time around. Overall, he said, the unincorporated areas were dealt with more reactively than proactively, but the “needs lists” moved them toward the latter. The budget is a “good start” toward responding to many of those needs, in Taylor’s view. He sees the past and future lists a “great way” to communicate to government officials what you need from them.
Also: The Subarea Plan was about to go to the County Council for a final vote. Passage will be followed by implementation of zoning changes among other things. WC is part of an “urban growth area” and that means it needs to densify and make room for more people, he says, but he believes the plan does a good job of “keeping White Center, White Center” and minimizing displacement. If the plan has unintended consequences, “we’ll adjust – we do a good job of that.”
He then invited questions. Taylor was asked what’s up with 16th/107th, where the road is in bad shape. He advised reporting it to email@example.com, which will lead to a service request and a road supervisor going out for a look. Dobkin asked about the recent Smoke Town fire (for which a suspect has been charged, as we’ve reported) and how businesses are being helped, including those damaged by last year’s fires. Economic-recovery specialist Michael Morales from the county said a special district was drawn up for that area and businesses were eligible for $60,000 grants that can be applied to expenses from related losses. He said those awards will be going out before year’s end. Regarding Smoke Town, he said county reps were there the day after the fire and are working with the store’s owner. They’ve had 58 out of about 80 eligible businesses in the area apply for the grants. They expect to have some leftover money to be “reappropriated.”
Other questions/concerns included difficulty reaching people to resolve problems, and then a specific question about three parcels “missed in the process” of rezoning – a “missed opportunity” as the attendee described it. The question was asked by a person who owns one of the parcels and spoke about it at a recent County Council meeting, And that’s who would have to take action, Taylor said, via a “line amendment.” Taylor recapped the many months over which the plan had been reviewed and said that it seems a little late in the process to get those parcels added to the plan. So he said about all the attendee could do would be continuing to push individual councilmembers in hopes that maybe one could sponsor an amendment. That led to a side discussion about how the results of the forthcoming rezoning would be monitored. And, Taylor was asked, will there be any funding for sidewalks in higher-density rezoned areas? That’s usually a requirement for developers, Taylor said, though he also noted that some. of the participatory-budgeting money went toward new sidewalks in Skyway.
Dobkin then had a concern about Code Enforcement not responding to concerns. Taylor said the county code was written a long time ago “with a property-rights focus” so it’s easy for “bad actors … to ignore us.” Their tools are generally restricted to “paltry fines.” He hopes that people will remember that in “every single one of these cases … there’s a person attached to it,” maybe a hoarder dealing with mental illness, for example.
Another question was about the new tenant at the former Taradise Café location and what kind of progress they’re making (it’s been a year since we first mentioned them). The county reps had no specifics but “we’re hopeful it’s going to be a very different experience than the community had under previous ownership.” Eric Thomas from the Liquor and Cannabis Board said its liquor license has been issued and that what he found online indicated it might open by year-end, The county reps also added that the fire-damaged deli on the west side of 16th is close to a permit for repairs.
What about the microhousing project? No new info. Anything new with a problematic hookah lounge? The LCB’s Thomas did not have an update on the investigation, The formerly closed cannabis business on 1st has reopened but with limited hours.
HOLIDAY EVENT: White Center Santa Con is coming up December 10th.
ELECTION RESULTS: Shoutout to the Evergreen High School Key Club for doorbelling 1,500 residences to campaign for the Highline Public Schools bond.
REMEMBERING STEVE COX: December 2nd marked 16 years since the deputy and North Highline community champion was killed in the line of duty.
IN-PERSON MEETINGS: Dobkin said they just can’t find a place “that works” – the North Highline Fire District HQ, former in-person meeting site, “won’t be available until after the summer.” So they’ll continue on Zoom until further notice. No January meeting, so NHUAC’s next meeting is in February, first Thursday at 7 pm as usual, February 2nd.