Ironies With the Park District

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Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 12:59 pm  //  John Servais

Dotted black line shows proposed Metro Park District Boundary on the south side of Bellingham. Yellow and purple show city council districts and can be ignored.

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.

Frank James  //  Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 4:33 pm

“If you limit your actions in life to things that nobody can possibly find fault with, you will not do much.”
Lewis Carroll.

Do vote to perserve this land for future generations. It makes sense to do that and it make sense to do it now. Dedicated community members have worked for many years, some for decades to get to where we are now. It will be a legacy for the entire community for many, many years to come. Lake Padden, Hovander, the Arboretum, these are all places we love as a community. The price that we will each pay individually is small for what what we and our children and grandchildren will get is a true legacy.

VOTE YES for the Park District, do it today and put that ballot in the mail. Thanks for providing this forum John.

John Servais  //  Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 5:57 pm

Voting NO is a very positive step.  Some of that land is so perfectly suited to homes and not needed at all for the sensitive goals of the park.  We could create a low income housing area there and that would be a very positive, imaginative and community based project.  Or we could sell off 20 high quality lots and recoup the entire $3 million to pay off the loan and not harm the park or environment a bit. 

Frank, you make a very emotional appeal.  My entire article was how you proponents refuse to address the practical issues we opponents keep bringing up.  You keep it emotional.  I have been fighting for the woods and south side environmental issues for far longer than you - and we have known each other for over 40 years.  I think when we have enough park then we should be able to say we have enough and not be greedy for more and more.  This is not fair to the rest of our community - the city of Bellingham.

Delaine Clizbe  //  Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 6:48 pm

Mr. James,
Lake Padden was donated and I’m betting Hovander was too.  If you are suggesting that the proponents donate their land to be a park…...heck yea I"m all for that:)

R.C., Bob Cunningham  //  Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 7:31 pm

Nope, encumbering a small segment of the population to benefit the entire community is exactly the wrong thing to do. In my opinion, and mine only, if you wish a benefit for everyone, then everyone should share the burden. We are in the position of making that happen at this point in time. To place the properties in question, at great risk of value loss and over taxation, is short sighted at best. And an injustice, as most who might implement this park district will probably not inhabit it five years from now.

David Marshak  //  Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 2:36 pm

Interesting that after noting his heightened sense of responsibility to offer a fair forum on this site, John engages in ad hominem attacks on the folks who did the heavy lifting to get the Chuckanut Forest initiative this far:

“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.”

Of course, it depends on how you define “very close,” but the vast majority of public supporters of the initiative (listed on the post above) don’t live “very close” to the forest.


R.C., Bob Cunningham  //  Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 4:43 pm

David, I have never known John to attack anyone(governments excepted), over anything. What he posted made a lot of sense. YOU have listed enough people to have bought the land thenselves, except some perhaps twice? Business/assocation and then personally, very impressive, I still think the obligation should be city wide. Just my opinion.


John Servais  //  Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 5:00 pm

The long list of endorsers are listed on the website of the advocates - which is linked from this page.  The list was not a comment that contributed to a discussion of issues.  Indeed, advocates could post all their pages here as comments if this is accepted. 

We have spirited comments here and welcome them.

David Marshak  //  Thu, Feb 07, 2013, 2:53 pm

The list of endorsers of the Chuckanut Community Forest is very much pertinent information about this debate. The whole purpose of endorsement in a democracy is for citizens to express their viewpoint to other community members.

By posting the list of endorsers, I provided readers of this blog with information very much related to the issue.

What you see here is the censorship of the publisher. So much for providing a “fair forum.”

John Servais  //  Thu, Feb 07, 2013, 3:46 pm

I have repeatedly invited members of the steering committee to submit more articles and to respond to the criticisms.  They have remained silent.  This goes back to December.  In spoken conversations and in writing and over beer in a Fairhaven establishment.  With the exception of the one from Dan Remsen, they have declined.  They have no obligation to post to NWCitizen.  But it is legitimate for us to ask why the silence and draw the obvious conclusion.  The facts are against the park district.

The link to their website has been posted at the top right for many weeks.  It contains their list of endorsers.  I see many endorsements that are double - one for the person and another for their business.  The two opposing websites provide valuable information for those seeking answers on how to vote.  This website provides discussion - or tries to.  To post entire pages from one website to this discussion is out of bounds.  Yes, it is censorship - and I stand by it.  This website has guidelines - and if you do not like them you are free to start your own website and do better.  I will promptly post a link to your website so all can go to it.  David, you want to spend your money and time and do it better than is done here? 

Re the endorsement list.  The members of the steering committee all have their names on the list but do not identify themselves as being on the steering committee.  Again, in my opinion, this is another facet of the proponents being less than transparent in this whole process of trying to rush through the park district.  I can only urge readers to vote NO and let us take our time finding a best solution to our wonderful dilemma of having too much parkland.

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