Kelly O

White Center is stuck in limbo. The neighborhood of 13,000 residents—just south of Seattle's Southwest Roxbury Street—doesn't belong to any city. King County maintains utilities and roads, and a King County Sheriff's office stuck between a nail salon and a waxing studio handles all the 911 calls. But the county can't afford this suburban orphan that costs $22.3 million in services annually but generates only $11.7 million in revenue.

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The dependence was supposed to end on March 18, when the Seattle City Council's Regional Development 0& Sustainability Committee was slated to vote on a measure to annex White Center and several other neighborhoods, collectively known as North Highline. If approved, Seattle would finally, after 10 years of deliberation, make a decision. If not, Burien would have a chance to adopt the neighborhoods. But council president Richard Conlin screwed White Center: Instead of voting on annexation, Conlin proposed delaying the vote until next February.

"This is a horrible plan," says Barbara Dobkin, a White Center resident and member of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

Part of the problem is that the neighborhoods don't want to be part of Seattle (the area council voted collectively against annexation), in part because residents would lose two of their three libraries. They'd also have far less political pull than if they joined with Burien's population of 33,000.

Many Seattle City Council members don't want the area to be part of Seattle, either. Providing services to the new residents at a cost of up to $16.8 million annually would outweigh the taxes from residents.

"This is a way for him to buy time at the expense of us and our neighborhoods," Dobkin says of Conlin's stunt.

Conlin, who has long championed a plan to annex White Center, insists he's not playing a political game at the expense of neighborhood stability. "Most council members like the concept of annexation," he says. "We just need a little more time to figure out the financial situation." Conlin argues that residents' fees and taxes would drop about $350 per year.

But residents like Dobkin say that if Conlin gets his way, on his extended schedule, a vote could still be two or three years away.

Conlin also leaves Burien in the lurch. "This doesn't send a very clear signal to us," says Mike Martin, Burien's city manager. "It's pretty confusing."

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Burien's and White Center's futures may become more clear when the full council votes on March 28. If the council kills Conlin's delay tactic, Seattle will release its claim on White Center.

Cienna Madrid breaks news daily at thestranger.com/Slog

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