The Chuckanut Park District presents some ironies the advocates must face. As this debate continues, many are still holding back on their ballots. As of Monday, about 1,500 of the 7,700 or so ballots had been returned. People may still be seeking more facts and perspectives - and I think there are several that have yet to be fully discussed. So, here is a brief listing of some.
Fear. The proponents accuse the opponents of using "fear" tactics. I see it as the opposite. Proponents write of the horror if this park district is not passed: the forest will be lost; ticky-tack houses will fill the high wetlands areas; we will never have another chance to "save" the woods. Those are fear tactics. And that has been the theme. Saying something is our last chance is a fear tactic. In truth, the woods are already saved - fully owned by the city - and we as a community can now plan their future. We have five years.
Which brings up a second irony. The park district backers keep saying it is a community act to form the park district. Actually, no. Our community is our city of Bellingham. This park district is a faction approach to solving a community planning challenge. The backers write of not trusting the city. A real community solution would involve working with our city to find a community-wide solution. "Community" is not using "sky is falling" fear tactics to put the burden of something on a fraction of the community.
The tax. I personally don't mind paying the additional property tax. But it will cause real hurt to renters and business owners - who will be paying for ten years or more - and do not have a vote in this tax. Students voting now will be gone in a year or two when the tax takes hold. Those following will have increased rents. The proposal backers who scoff at the impacts of higher taxes are mostly very well off people who may have forgotten what it is like to live hand to mouth. Many low income home owners in Happy Valley will feel the real brunt of this tax. The irony is the backers are mostly very liberal and are all for helping the poor.
The core backers - the steering committee members - tend to live very very close to the woods they want the rest of us to ensure is never used for any housing. The passage of this park district will, in some cases, greatly increase the value of their homes and property. Several live in the very area where they say no one should build a home. Some built their homes there in the 1990s - after we started trying to save the woods from development. Now they want the rest of us to tax ourselves to prevent anyone else from building next door to them. A bit ironic.
Briza is a development across the street from the park where some of the fiercest backers of the park district live. Briza is on far steeper and more sensitive slopes than the land in the park along Chuckanut Drive. If the park district passes, and no more homes are allowed, the Briza property values will increase. Being a nimby is fine, but not if you want the rest of us to pay for it. With increased taxes my property value goes down, and yet they want me to subsidize an increase in their property values. Ironic indeed.
The park district boundary was gerrymandered. The proponents say the district represents the south side residents who will benefit. However, they left out the entire Samish Neighborhood on the east side of I-5, even though many residents there live twice as close as many residents in the north of the proposed park district. The backers picked only the areas they felt would support the measure - including dense WWU student areas. It is ironic that residents living 2/3rds of a mile away will not have to pay, while those living almost 2 miles away will.
Some of the land along Chuckanut Drive may well be perfect for some homes. The land is dry and is not part of the vital interconnecting high wetlands and sensitive woods. Instead, this land along the road - and next to the existing homes of some of the proponents - may well generate enough sales revenue to pay off the balance of the $3.2 million the city owes to itself. We have five years to look at this. This land was suitable for the proponents to build on and may be very suitable for more homes.
If this park district measure passes, it could well influence the next Greenways levy to fail. The purpose of Greenways is to buy land for parks and trails throughout the city. Greenways IV is scheduled for sometime in the next two to four years. All of us are paying the Greenways III levy right now. I pay $136 a year for Greenways. This tax adds $80. I don't mind, but many others will simply object to the next Greenways levy. This is the main reason I am against this park district and the impending tax. It is a divisive proposal by its very nature. It splits our community, asks some to pay for all, and benefits only a very few who own property next to, and in some cases, surrounded on three sides by this proposed park.
This is a city-wide issue and we should put our political energy into a city-wide solution. Vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District.