Burien City Manager Mike Martin (standing) addresses North Highline residents during an annexation information meeting at 3.14 Bakery in White Center on June 21.
Burien talks annexation directly with North Highline residents
Medical marijuana dispensaries would be shut down; Martin envisions two distinct business districts
Around 25 North Highline residents out of a potential 18,000 voters attended the City of Burien’s first informational session about annexation on June 21 in White Center, leading up to a November vote on the issue.
After a brief introduction by Burien City Manager Mike Martin and Management Analyst Nhan Nguyen, the floor of 3.14 Bakery was turned over for questions from the audience.
Here are some highlights from the meeting:
Medical marijuana dispensaries are a no-go
A Top Hat medical marijuana dispensary owner asked if his business would be protected if North Highline becomes part of Burien.
“Medical marijuana (dispensaries or co-ops) are not a licensed business by the state, and would not be allowed in Burien,” Martin said in no uncertain terms. To contrast, Martin said while Burien currently has no “adult shops,” those already established in North Highline would be grandfathered in since they are allowed by the state.
The topic came back up at certain points in the hour-long meeting, including a White Center business owner’s perspective.
“They are good customers,” Jessica Haury of 3.14 Bakery said of medical marijuana patients who come to the 16th St. corridor to visit either Herban Legends or the Northwest Cannabis Market. “I know with dispensaries on this street, we’ve seen business increase probably 10 to 15 percent on the days they are open …”
She said patients are identifying businesses they enjoy in the corridor, and becoming regular customers as a result of the medical marijuana pull.
Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer said his department would simply enforce state and federal law with regards to medical marijuana businesses, saying it was not a top priority of the department, and their approach would be subject to change if the laws changed.
Policing changes (or lack thereof)
Chief Kimerer addressed the crowd with details on the policing transition with annexation, stating policing levels will not go down (including Storefront Deputy BJ Myers position).
“Essentially it is a very simple premise,” he said. “The officers who currently work in the North Highline area (would remain) … however we would be combining that with the Burien Police Department.”
He said the two officers currently staffed in North Highline would be combined with the four to six on staff at any given time in Burien, for a “much better response capability.”
Martin’s vision for the future of North Highline
City manager Martin said, “From a purely economic standpoint, this area is going to gentrify (with annexation)… Burien looked remarkably like White Center does 20 years ago.”
Gentrification refers to changes when wealthier people move into lower income areas, generally raising rent and house prices (and therefore property taxes for the city) and, theoretically, businesses flourish and grow as more money is spent in the local economy.
A North Highline resident asked, “Will we be able to maintain our identity as White Center? … What about Jubilee Days, and our festivals and our uniqueness; will that be maintained?”
“We are very interested in preserving that,” Martin said. He envisions the business district of White Center developing on its own terms, not becoming a carbon copy of the 152nd St. business district in Burien.
Opposition speaks up
A small group of Burien residents attended the meeting including Chestine Edgar, a vocal oppositionist to annexation, who confronted Martin on whether or not the $5 million yearly tax credit to Burien is guaranteed money.
“Unequivocally, $5 million dollars comes to this area from the state (if Burien annexes)…” he said. Edgar disputed whether the total amount is guaranteed.
When asked by a North Highline resident what would happen if the $5 million tax credit went away in future years (it is theoretically in place for 10 years), Martin said “I think it is highly unlikely it will go away,” echoing the same sentiment given by 34th District Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon at a recent NHUAC meeting. Martin did acknowledge the tax credit could go away if the state continues to endure budget shortfalls, but did not go into detail on what would happen in that case.
There will be another informational meeting on July 12, 6 p.m. at Dubsea Coffee (9910 8th Ave S.W.) and Burien officials said they plan to hold meetings every month leading up to the November annexation vote by North Highline residents. They will also have an information booth set up during Jubilee Days.
More information on annexation can be found at Burien’s website, www.burienwa.gov, or by checking out the Herald story "Burien publishes questions and answers on North Highline annexation."