Chance to save last piece of Japanese Gulch on ballot
MUKILTEO - City voters this November are being asked to raise their property taxes in order to save the last piece of Japanese Gulch.
The ballot measure will let the city issue a $3.2 million bond toward purchasing the last 98 acres. The city would repay the bond by charging 20 cents per $1,000 assessed home value over the next five years.
The average home in Mukilteo is worth $379,000 and would cost the average homeowner about $75 a year, or $375 over the life of the bond.
The measure needs a 60 percent supermajority to pass.
Supporters call this the big push to save the last unowned piece of Japanese Gulch, which is a 98-acre piece located in Everett city limits. The city and nonprofit Japanese Gulch Group spent the past decade acquiring land in the gulch piece by piece.
The city faces a time crunch to acquire it. The land is owned by the bankrupt Metropolitan Creditor’s Trust and a bankruptcy court is temporarily holding the land for Mukilteo if the city can get the money.
The city has grant requests for about half the $6.5 million purchase, and $500,000 of that is firmly secured. The bond would pay the rest.
Opponents, including resident Charlie Pancerzewski, argue Mukilteans would be taxed to buy gulch land primarily used by nonresidents.
Pancerzewski, who wrote the ballot opposition statement, argues Mukiltean taxpayers are already spending too much subsidizing city facilities mainly used by nonresidents. He cites Japanese Gulch as the latest example.
In the statement, he writes the city faces losses from operating Rosehill Community Center and spent large amounts of city money improving Lighthouse Park. Both sites are commonly used by nonresidents, and some Mukilteans avoid Lighthouse Park altogether because nonresidents fill the parking lot.
Another problem with the gulch purchase, Pancerzewski notes, is that the city doesn’t have the other half of the money firmed up to make the purchase.
The city has $2.8 million in pending grant funding for the acquisition, including $1.9 million in matching grants from the state Recreation and Conservation Office.
The city isn’t saying the bond measure will pay for the matching grants, Recreation spokeswoman Susan Zemek said last week. But if they can’t match the funding, the grant requests would be thrown out.
Mukilteo’s grant request would be decided by the state Legislature next year as part of a package deal from the Recreation office.
Mayor Joe Marine said previously the bankruptcy court wouldn’t want Mukilteo to buy half the land, so the city would need to have cash in hand for the whole 98 acres.
The parcel is the last piece of Japanese Gulch not owned by the city, and is located in the center of the gulch. Pro-gulch supporters fear if a developer buys it, an industrial park could be built there.
The Japanese Gulch Group conducted a small survey in August to get the public’s view on the bond measure.
The survey had five questions. According to results presented to the council, 203 people said the city should run a ballot measure to buy Japanese Gulch land and 81 people said no. The survey found 198 people would support a five-year levy and 90 people said no.
The survey also found more people would be open to a two-year levy to raise half of the money needed to buy the last piece of the gulch.
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