The King County Growth Management Planning Council (GMPC), the body comprised of County and City representatives that approves policy relating to implementation of Growth Management in King County, has unanimously approved a City of Seattle proposal to designate the ‘Sliver on the River’ in South Park as a Potential Annexation Area (PAA) for Seattle. This sends the designation first to King County and then to cities for formal approval by jurisdictions representing 70% of King County population. While the window for action on this may extend through this fall, this is essentially a formality in this case, since there is no indication of any opposition (and we don’t even have to campaign for action, since King County is supportive and failure to take action by Cities is considered ratification of the GMPC vote).
The GMPC action followed on the heels of Council approval of an amendment to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan that designated this small area (17.25 acres, 155 inhabitants) for annexation. The area is surrounded by Seattle except on the river side, and was left out of the City limits because it is the landing area for the South Park Bridge, owned by King County. With the new bridge under construction, Seattle is negotiating for ownership and a maintenance agreement that will help fund the costs of bridge operation.
The annexation process in Washington is a cumbersome one. Once we have completed this action, we still have to approve an Interlocal Agreement with King County and submit the proposed annexation to the Boundary Review Board (BRB) for approval. The real action is in the negotiations with King County on maintenance of the bridge and other service transition issues, since there is no likely or plausible opposition to the proposed boundaries. If all goes well, the annexation could take place as early as sometime in 2013.
Seattle is also proposing to annex another leftover parcel, called the Duwamish Triangle, which is primarily industrial, including 124 acres but only 6 residents. This parcel is bordered by Tukwila, and both cities have already received approval for it as a Potential Annexation Area. That could lead to a real contest before the Boundary Review Board, but we believe that it is closely linked enough to Seattle that we would likely be successful.
The kicker in both of these areas, however, are potential costs that Seattle might have to bear in order to complete the annexation and bring the areas up to urban standards. There is strong agreement that South Park deserves to be united so that Fire, Police, and other services can be provided on a more rational basis, and that the two areas together will provide ample revenue to more than cover those costs to the general fund (the Duwamish Triangle brings a great deal of revenue from business taxes with little expense, which is the reason that Tukwila is interested in it).
The concern is with potential capital costs and environmental liabilities associated with past pollution in the Duwamish Triangle, and with the lack of sewer and drainage infrastructure in both areas. Most of the area has informal drainage and septic tanks. Together these items could total in excess of $100 million, according to a City analysis. Although the capital costs could be spread over 30 years, there would still be noticeable impacts on utility rates. The City will seek assistance from King County for these costs, but even if there is some sharing of responsibility, the City will still have to make a decision as to whether these costs can be managed.
So, despite the progress being made, there is still a long road to annexation. Nonetheless, the actions by the Council including the Sliver in the Comprehensive Plan and the approval by the GMPC are significant steps in the right direction, and we can celebrate them as steps forward on the journey to reunite the South Park community.