Chuckanut Community Forest Metropolitan Park District – special election coming in February 2013

922503336The continuing saga of how the City of Bellingham purchased the Chuckanut Ridge, aka; 100-Acre Woods in August of 2011.

The 100-Acre Woods was owned by Greenbriar Northwest and had been legally zoned for, multi-story, single family homes. Greenbriar had many obstacles placed before them which delayed this development. In 2008 when the real estate bubble burst, the feasibilty that the development could ever happen, withered and Greenbriar Northwest spiraled into bankruptcy. The bankruptcy of Greenbriar Northwest then dominoed into the closing of Horizon Bank, by the FDIC, who turned the banks assets over to Washington Federal Savings and Loan (WaFed).
WaFed eventually worked out a deal with the City of Bellingham to sell the the 100-Acre Woods for a substantially discounted price of $8.7 million. This was a far cry from the original assessed valuation of $26 million, or the present valuation of $11.8 million. (Forgive me as I digress, but as they crowed about purchasing this property for a song, they failed to admit that the city also lost approximately $275 million in real estate excise taxes from the future sale(s) of the lots, or all of the future property taxes not realized because this property was removed from the city and county tax roles. These not so frivolous money matters should have been considered and discussed before taking a private asset and placing this land into the public domain as a liability.) So, as I wander forward, the City of Bellingham had $5 million available from from the Greenways III levy and Southside Park impact fees to pay towards this purchase. The remainder was paid through the approval of an inter-fund loan of $3.3 million, from the Greenways III, maintenance endowment funds. The $3.3 million inter-fund loan has to be repaid by 2017. So, at the time it was promised that the “Responsible Development,” coalition would raise $1.0 million to repay part of the inter-fund loan. It was also suggested that WaFed might make a financial contribution for repayment of the loan, or find a private lender to make a short-term loan, that would be repaid after running a new Greenways levy.

In the interim, in 2011, the City of Bellingham elected a new mayor, Kelli Linville, who suggested that the City of Bellingham rezone and sell-off 25% of the property to repay the inter-fund loan, but the Bellingham City Council voted against this proposal by Mayor Linville.

Fastforward to 2012, the lack of promised money to be raised by “Responsible Development,” the lack of a financial contribution from WaFed, and here we are at the crossroads of a new proposal to approve a metropolitan park district (MPD), for the express purpose of creating a new taxing distrit(s) to repay the tax money that was loaned from the Greenways III, maintenance funding. Also, the City of Bellingham was very generous and patient (as they usually are) when it came to a park acquisitions. The signatures needed to acquire approval to bring the MPD to a vote only needed to be delayed long enough for the good students of Western Washington University to come back to town. Yes, the original time frame for the signature gathering to have been completed was September 2012, but was extended into October of 2012 and voilà the required number of signatures were acquired.

From here the end of the story will not be told until after the special election is held in February 2013, at which time a special cookie-cutter section of Southsiders will be voting on gaining control of the 100-Acre Woods and the ability to tax property owners to pay for it all.

There is a great site which gives a good look at what’s coming up in the special election, if the voters approve the Chuckanut Community Forest MPD, here. I urge you to visit this site, learn as much as you can about this issue, share what you learn and consider signing the petition there, too.

Update on posting: Learn more about how a metropolitan park district (MPD) can tax you and control your ability to use your property. There’s a lot more to know about MPD’s than they’ve educated the voters to be aware of.

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Think we don’t have enough park land in Whatcom County? Check out this report and ask yourself how Whatcom County affords to maintain so much park land? Because we don’t! Whatcom County budgets very little for the maintenance of its parks and allows much of it to go wild.

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