Burien meets with Beverly Park residents on annexation
Burien City Manager Mike Martin assured Beverly Park and Glendale residents of unincorporated North Highline that there would be no abrupt changes if their neighborhoods annexed into Burien.
Martin made his remarks Sept. 13 at the latest in a series of annexation information meetings at Beverly Park Elementary School. White Center and North Highline residents will vote on annexation at the Nov. 6 election.
“The general theme is we will do as little as possible the first year,” Martin said. “We will talk to the neighbors, be very attentive, and try to accommodate everyone.”
On zoning, Martin said the city would try to match as closely as possible the current King County zoning.
The city manager said Burien is not proactive in looking for code violations and relies on citizen complaints.
“One guy’s rusty automobile is another father’s project with his 16-year-old son,” Martin noted. “We want people to solve their own problems without too much government regulations.”
He added the special districts such as sewer and water will stay the same with annexation.
Fire service currently handled by King County Fire District #11, the North Highline Fire Department, will be taken over by King County Fire District #2, the Burien/Normandy Park Fire Department.
“It will be the same people in the same rigs,” Martin said.
Martin noted that Burien has a small city staff and contracts many services out.
“There is no appetite to take over special districts,” he noted.
He also said it is unlikely the city would install sidewalks in areas where residents do not want them. He said new sidewalks would most likely go in near schools and other places children walk or in new developments.
“Drainage ditches won’t go away,” he also noted.
He said Burien has been doing its own snow removal for two years and it has worked out successfully. A map showing which arterial streets have highest priority is on the city’s website.
Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer echoed Martin in saying “the simple answer is very little will change.”
Since Burien contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services, the officers in the field “will be the same people but in a different uniform,” Kimerer said.
Annexation critic Chestine Edgar challenged Kimerer by saying contract-mandated wage increases for sheriff’s deputies make the cost of the sheriff’s contract cost prohibitive and not sustainable.
Kimerer said recent study found that continuing the county contract would be less expensive than forming a municipal police department. The chief said the latest sheriff’s office contract was negotiated before the recession hit. It is up at the end of the year.
Because cities can opt out of their police services contracts, Kimerer said the sheriff’s office has to be a customer service organization.
“We realize we can’t out price ourselves,” Kimerer declared.
Kimerer said juvenile crime, including burglaries and car thefts are Burien’s top crime problem.
But, he noted Burien’s crime rate has lowered or stayed the same in the time he has been chief.
He added that Burien’s crime rate is lower than Seattle’s.
Kimerer also acknowledged that there are crime problems in the annexation neighborhoods of White Center, Top Hat and Beverly Park.
Edgar said the White Center Development Association (WCDA) would disappear because of lower property tax revenues to the city. Burien only allocates $100,000 per year for human services, Edgar added.
Deputy Mayor Rose Clark replied the WCDA receives its money from grants, not government funding.
The contentious issue of the $5 million per year for 10 years in state tax credits Burien is slated to receive if it annexes North Highline was debated once again at the Beverly Park meeting.
Martin said nothing is guaranteed but he has been given the best assurances Burien would receive the money from the legislature each year.
An audience member said two council members told him the money is not there for the tax credit. Three out of Burien’s council members oppose annexation.
Martin disputed the claim.
He also noted Burien would be receiving ten times more in tax credit for annexing the rest of North Highline than it did for its recent annexation of the Boulevard Park area. He said the previous annexation added 14,000 residents while the current annexation proposal would bring in 18,000 more residents.
Asked whether Burien could prevent the King County Housing Authority from putting more low-income housing in the area, Martin said if KCHA owns the property it would be difficult. However, he said Burien would have a lot of authority over how the housing is built.
The Beverly Park meeting proceeded without much of the acrimony seen at previous annexation information sessions.
However, near the end of the meeting, north Burien resident Rachael Levin gave a lengthy impassioned speech saying that as resident of the newly annexed area she found Burien staffers and lawmakers very responsive.
Edgar interrupted the speech to say the meeting’s purpose was for information and not advocacy.
Martin then interrupted Edgar and allowed Levine to continue her remarks.
The City of Burien is conducting a series of informational sessions about the upcoming North Highline annexation election. The next session is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 18, 6 pm at Cascade Middle School cafeteria, 11212 10th Ave. S.W.