Land conservation group working with city to secure Japanese Gulch
MUKILTEO - The city will contract with land conservation nonprofit Forterra to help the city negotiate down the price for the last piece of Japanese Gulch.
The 98-acre piece of the gulch is being held by a bankruptcy court and is the last privately owned piece of the gulch. City officials have publicly said the property is priced at $6.3 million, but they also acknowledge a privately negotiated price exists.
The City Council will not pursue an August ballot measure asking voters for a bond to acquire that last gulch piece, but it didn’t throw out the option of a November ballot measure.
The City Council earlier this month voted unanimously to sign a contract with Forterra.
The contract’s details are not yet public, but if the city secures the land, Forterra would get a commission of between 1 and 4 percent of the sale price, or get a flat amount in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The city’s tasks for Forterra are fourfold: Push state legislators to give Mukilteo more grant money to buy the gulch, write an application to secure more grant money from Snohomish County, formalize a final price of the gulch via a new appraisal and get the bankruptcy court to come to an agreement for Mukilteo to buy as much land as possible if the city can’t afford the entire price.
If the nonprofit can’t secure grants for the gulch, Forterra won’t get paid, city administrator Joe Hannan said.
Sabrina Bolieu, the former Japanese Gulch Group director, will represent the city through her new job with Forterra. Bolieu joined Forterra in December.
Council members raised concerns last month that the city isn’t being professionally represented in this property negotiation.
“The people who do the best job on this should be more likely to get the money,” Council President Randy Lord said in casting his ‘yes’ vote for contracting with Forterra.
Forterra, though, will stay out of any ballot measures the City Council puts forward, Bolieu said.
The money to pay Forterra will come from the city’s existing grant fund for Japanese Gulch.
Right now, Mukilteo has secured more than $800,000 for the property purchase and is trying to secure $3.5 million in additional state and county grants.
If the City Council opts for a ballot measure, it could ask voters for a $2.5 million bond. Council members also have weighed circumventing a vote and issuing a councilmanic bond that doesn’t require voter approval. Rosehill Community Center was funded through a councilmanic bond a few years ago.
Last fall, a ballot proposition asking for $3.2 million to buy the last piece of the gulch got 58 percent of the vote, but fell short of the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass.
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