Guest writer Bill Geyer used a literary tool to explain TDRs. Update: The opponents website is now posted. It is worth checking.
“Think, think, think. What to do, Christopher Robin,” pondered Winnie the Pooh. “The 82 acre woods are vast, much to be protected, much to be valued, yet so much debt—$3,200,000 – oh, bother. That’s more than all the honey pots we can gather. EeeOr says it’s a crisis. He says we must pick new commissioners of the woods, tax the villagers, and then give the villagers’ money to the City. If we do this for ten years, he says we can stay in the woods. I’ve been thinking, Christopher, isn’t there a better way? Wise Owl says we shouldn’t take the villagers hard earned pay. He says we don’t need new commissioners.”
“Did I hear my name?” asked Wise Owl as he flew in.
“How nice to see you, Wise Owl,” said Christopher Robin. “Tell us how to save the woods AND make this better.”
“It’s quite simple,” Wise Owl replied. “We sell the rights to build homes in the 82 acre woods to other areas where there are no woods. You see, no one is talking outside the woods, Christopher Robin.”
“Do you mean,” Christopher Robin said as he scratched his head, “that we wouldn’t have any houses in the woods, wouldn’t cut the trees or make it into a tidy little village, but it would stay for all the creatures forever and not cost the villagers a cent?”
“Who, I mean yes,” said Wise Owl.
“But how does it work?” asked Christopher Robin.
‘Well,” said Wise Owl, “you must think smart. You must first understand the woods are more than just land, streams, ponds and critters. And they must be protected. But the woods have something almost as valuable as all these things, much more valuable than all the honey pots, and enough to pay the City’s entire loan.”
“More than all the honey pots?” exclaimed Pooh Bear.
“You mean it would pay off the three million dollar loan?” asked Christopher Robin.
“Yes. If we think smart and are patient,” said Wise Owl.
“What does patience have to do with it?” asked Christopher Robin.
“Everything, my boy, everything. Let’s say we gather the finest thinkers in the village and plan with patience and intelligence – we will open the door for better answers. The loan isn’t due for five years – which gives plenty of time to sell the TDRs.”
“No more loan, no houses where animals should live, no money taken from the villagers - why Wise Owl, you have something here!” exclaimed Christopher Robin.
“And keep the honey pots?” asked Pooh.
“We can keep the honey pots,” said Wise Owl.
Christopher Robin wanted to know more. “Please tell me Wise Owl, exactly how would we do this?”
Wise Owl swiveled his head and stretched his wings to reveal a document. It was a short page which described the woods, listed the Council’s names, and included another item called “development rights.”
“Here is the valuable item,” Wise Owl declared. “The 82 acre woods have development rights to supply 714 single family or 1190 multi-family dwellings. The rights to build these dwellings can be sold as a transfer of development rights (TDR’s) to a village location. The price for each TDR is around $2,500 each, so selling them now would generate about one and a half million dollars. But with patience over the next four years the rights could be sold in a better market, and might be worth from three to five thousand dollars each, or even more.”
Christopher Robin quickly calculated the total and excitedly exclaimed “Pooh, that’s three and a half to five million dollars—enough to pay off the whole loan, and maybe more!”
“Oh wouldn’t that be a wonderful Christmas present?” Pooh Bear said as he reached for his hanky.
“Now finally the question arises. Who?” said Wise Owl. “Who can put this together?”
Christopher Robin thought long and hard. “I really know the villagers want to help, and some of them know how to do this, don’t they? We can ask them.”
“Yes, we can ask them. But first the villagers must say no,” said Wise Owl.
“What do you mean?” asked Christopher Robin.
Wise Owl explained, “The villagers will vote whether or not to create a new park district and elect commissioners. Funny even if the villagers do that, they have no say in setting the tax rate or where the money is spent. Only the commissioners can do that. So it’s very important, Christopher Robin, that the villagers say no. They must Vote NO on Proposition 1 and mail their ballots by February 12, 2013 to the County Auditor. Once a majority votes NO, we then can ask the City Council to sell the TDR’s.”
“And we can have a picnic in the woods?” Pooh asked expectantly.
“Most certainly,” said Christopher Robins, “we can have many picnics in the woods.”
“I like picnics, too,” cried EeeOr who was grazing nearby.
Think, think, think. Smart thinking can pay off the loan. A new parks district is not needed.
VOTE NO on Proposition 1. Then let’s propose a smarter solution.
Bill Geyer, a 28-year South Hill resident, is a certified professional planner. He serves as the Chairman of Protect Bellingham Parks, the committee advocating realistic financial solutions to pay off the City’s $3,200,000 loan to the Greenways Endowment Fund.