Highline schools approves negotiations to sell ex-Navos site to Burien
Over the objections of Burien resident Chestine Edgar, the Highline School Board voted June 26 to negotiate a sale of the former Navos mental health center site to the city of Burien.
Burien wants to use a portion of the property to build a storm water facility for its Northeast Burien Redevelopment Area (NERA) project.
The old Sunny Terrace Elementary School is located at 1010 S. 146th St, near Sea-Tac Airport’s third runway. Navos occupied the 9.8-acre site from 1979 to Oct. 2012, before moving to its new facility at Southwest 136th Street and Ambaum Boulevard Southwest. The Sunny Terrace site is now vacant.
The site is within the NERA boundaries, which stretch from South 138th Street to South 152nd Street between 8th Avenue South and Des Moines Memorial Drive South.
Because it is next to the airport, the city and Port want to develop the area with warehouses and other airport-related industrial uses. Burien officials have also suggested new car dealerships along First Avenue South could move to an auto mall along Des Moines Drive.
Edgar objected to the proposed sale, saying Burien taxpayers would end up paying for a stormwater facility that should be funded by the Port of Seattle. She also said the Port would benefit by redeveloping the NERA property, but as a governmental agency would not pay property taxes. The Port operates the airport.
She said, originally, the Port could only redevelop the land as parks or public facility sites. Subsequently, Edgar noted, Burien staffers decided the land could be developed by the Port for commercial uses.
“No property tax dollars could be collected from the Port to benefit the city, school district, police or fire services,” Edgar said.
According to the project’s environmental impact statement, the largest land holder/redeveloper was to pay for storm water development, Edgar said. However, now Burien is proposing its taxpayers pay, instead of the Port, she said.
“Currently, it appears to be a hand washing exercise by the city of Burien to benefit the Port of Seattle at Burien citizen expense,” Edgar declared.
Burien City Councilmember Rose Clark told school board members the city is working on a tight timeline with stormwater construction slated to begin later this year.
Contacted later by the Highline Times, Clark said that during the fight over the third runway construction, city officials were misinformed about what could be developed in the NERA area. Later, they discovered more of the land could be used for commercial development, instead of just parks or city facilities.
Dan Trimble, Burien’s economic development director, said the city has received $4.5 million in state grants to help pay for the facility. He added the Port has also contributed to the planning effort.
Trimble said only about three-quarters of an acre of the 9-acre Sunny Terrace site would be used for the drainage project. The city also owns some adjacent properties.
The NERA area, next to the new third runway, is currently mostly residential, Trimble noted.
“The redevelopment plan aims to return it to a viable economic use compatible with its location,” Trimble said.
Clark denied Burien would lose tax revenues on the redevelopment project.
“The whole goal of NERA was to create a commercial area where we could get more tax revenue for Burien, the school district and the fire districts,” Clark declared.
The declaration of Sunny Terrace as a surplus site and the approval of negotiations with Burien were on the board’s consent agenda. Board members passed the measures without comment.
They are expected to approve a sales agreement on Aug. 14.