Japanese Gulch won’t be on November ballot
MUKILTEO - The City Council last week agreed to skip issuing a November ballot measure asking voters for money to acquire the last piece of Japanese Gulch.
The council wants to wait until it knows whether or not the city has secured $2.5 million in Snohomish County grant money from the Conservation Futures Fund, and also wants to have a firm independent appraisal price of the 98-acre piece.
The $6.3 million appraisal price often quoted publicly was provided by the seller. It’s unknown when the independent appraisal will be complete.
The city has $1.8 million in secured funding right now. The $2.5 million would expand the kitty to $4.3 million, but a councilman who is a member of the Conservation Futures Fund’s board warned the grant is not certain.
A city-issued bond or other funding mechanism would pay for the rest of the purchase. Residents, though, told the council last week they support preserving the gulch, but don’t want the city taking out a bond to pay for the acquisition.
Council President Randy Lord, who is the board’s representative for the county’s large cities, warned the funding atmosphere is very competitive and the grant is “not a slam dunk.” There are $10 million in project grant requests that will be left without funding, Lord said.
Mukilteo’s request for $2.5 million is its biggest yet, and one of the larger requests of the 29 requests before the board. The city secured $300,000 and $500,000 from the same county fund in previous years.
The city presents its project to the seven-member board Aug. 21. A decision is expected by the County Council in September, a county official familiar with the fund said.
The council last week also heard of new ways to fund buying the gulch, including borrowing from a state treasury program at below-market interest rates. Another way to buy the gulch, preferred by the city’s finance director, would be issuing bonds on some of the city’s tax revenue streams.
Some council members don’t want to issue bonds because the city already is repaying a bond for Rosehill Community Center using market-driven real estate excise taxes.
The leadership of the nonprofit Japanese Gulch Group publicly asked the council to not put out a ballot measure. Group president Arnie Hammerman said it’s not the right time.
“I don’t think we need to go back to the voters and ask them a question they clearly answered,” Hammerman said. “With other options, we can find ways to get money.”
Last November, a city-initiated $3.2 million bond ballot measure failed to get a required 60 percent supermajority. The ballot measure got 58 percent of the vote.
The 98-acre piece of the gulch is controlled by a bankruptcy court that appears to want the property sold soon. The parcel is located in Everett.
Japanese Gulch Group representatives say the land would be well-used by hikers and walkers. People currently explore the gulch illegally by trespassing.
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