North Highline Annexation

Seattle is trying to scoop up a piece of the unincorporated North Highline Area (known as the Duwamish Industrial Area), and the City of Tukwila isn’t pleased.

The not so widely known “Back Story” in this dispute has a lot to do with the 16th Avenue Bridge (also known as the South Park Bridge).

Tukwila was the first jurisdiction to contribute $3 million for reconstruction of the bridge which is ½ in Tukwila and ½ in unincorporated King County.  King County put up the rest of the local money and was the “lead” on the project to reconstruct the South Park Bridge.  In return, Tukwila agreed to take-over a park (now a Sounder’s Training Facility) at the County’s request (thereby saving the County the cost of maintaining the park) in exchange for others taking on the maintenance of the bridge.  Now that the bridge is all done, Seattle wants it, together with the $800,000 in annual B&O tax revenue produced by the Duwamish Industrial Area.

Tukwila designated the Duwamish Industrial Area (in the North Highline Area) as a “Potential Annexation Area (PAA)” in the City’s Comprehensive Plan in 1995.

Later, in 1996, the city of Seattle designated a PAA that includes a much larger area of unincorporated North Highline. Seattle’s larger PAA overlaps Tukwila’s PAA for the Duwamish Industrial Area. After Seattle jumped Tukwila’s claim so to speak, the Legislature outlawed the practice by prohibiting a second city (like Seattle) from stepping-in after another city (like Tukwila) has already stepped-up to designate an unincorporated urban area as its PAA.  But the Legislature left in-place the Duwamish Industrial Area conflict between Seattle and Tukwila.

The city of Seattle’s larger PAA consists of three different areas:

  • The Sliver by the River (which is included only in Seattle’s PAA). Seattle didn’t proceed with annexing the area.  If it had, Seattle would have been saddled with paying for replacing the South Park Bridge.  But now that the bridge has been rebuilt (largely at the expense of other jurisdictions), Seattle wants to move forward to take the area.
  • Duwamish Industrial Area (overlap between Seattle and Tukwila); and
  • Area Y (it previously was an overlap between Burien and Seattle, but Burien has removed it from Burien’s PAA, so only Seattle is interested in annexing this area).

In 2012, property owners in the Duwamish Industrial Area filed a petition to annex into the city of Tukwila. At that time Tukwila filed a Notice of Intent to Annex with the Boundary Review Board. But Tukwila’s request was denied by the Board because it did not include a comprehensive resolution of the larger North Highline Area. Both the city of Seattle and King County opposed Tukwila’s Notice of Intent to Annex.  After the denial by the Boundary Review Board, Tukwila participated in mediation proceedings with King County and the city of Seattle to help resolve the overlap issue. The mediation process did not result in any agreement.

Now, the city of Seattle has adopted a resolution calling for the annexation (by an election of residents) in the Duwamish Industrial Area (the area that overlaps with Tukwila’s PAA) and the Sliver by the River area (only Seattle’s PAA).

Seattle has also filed a Notice of Intent to Annex with the Boundary Review Board, which has scheduled a hearing on July 20, 2015 to decide on Seattle’s Notice of Intent to Annex.