This has nothing to do with transit, but I think it’s an interesting story that does not get as much press as it deserves. The Seattle Weekly reports that Burien and Seattle have come to an agreement on the North Highline annexation. I’ve been following this for a little while, and if you’re not aware you can read the back story and what might happen in the future below the fold.
About 230,000 people in King County live in so-called “unincorporated” areas, that is, areas that do not have a municipal or “city” government. The county is responsible for providing municipal services like land-use and zoning, sewage, police and fire in these areas, and that makes King County the second largest municipal service provider in the state, after Seattle. The county can barely afford to provide these services, and in the case of police services, right now the county cannot pay for the services. In order to get away from the cost of providing these services, the county is encouraging the unincorporated areas to either get annexed by neighboring cities or incorporate into new cities. You can see a map of the ten largest urban unincorporated areas in the county here.
The county charged Burien, Sea-Tac and Seattle to investigate annexing part of the North Highline district in 2003. At first Burien was interesting in annexing just a portion of the area, and when Seattle said it wanted to annex the entire area, Burien followed suit. According to the Seattle weekly, this week Seattle has agreed to try to annex just the portion north of SW 116th St* (see a map of the area here), and Burien would try to annex the areas south of 116th, plus the Rainier Golf and County Club. That means about three-quarters of the area would go to Seattle. Adding that area would increase Seattle’s population by about 24,000 people, and increase the city’s limits by about four square miles.
There are still two large hurdles for the annexation to move forward. The State has a sales-tax credit for cities that annex unincorporated areas to help cover the costs of bringing the new neighborhoods into the fold. Both Burien and Seattle would need that credit to be able to afford the annexation, however, the State’s lax prohibits cities with more than 400,000 people from getting the credit (Seattle is the only city in the state with more than 204,000 people). So before Seattle could annex the area, the state legistlature would need to first change that law to include Seattle.
Even when that’s taken care of, the residents in North Highline would need to approve the annexation. With the county slashing services, and the cities able to provide far better than the county services before cuts, it’s looking more and more likely that area residents would favor being annexed. It should be interesting to see how this plays out over time.
*The weekly article misstates this as 116th Ave SW.