Park levy to be $2.567 million –– News Roundup

Bainbridge park officials will seek a one-year, $2.567 million maintenance and operations levy, to keep parks open through 2005 as a new “metropolitan” park district is established.

A draft levy budget, representing a 4.3 percent increase over the current year, was unveiled at Thursday’s board meeting.

The increase represents no staffing or program changes, district Director Terry Lande said, beyond an extra $5,000 to water a new ball field under construction at the Hidden Cove park.

The rest of the additional funds would cover inflationary hikes for utilities and insurance, and some salary increases called for under collective bargaining.

Other changes?

“None,” Lande said. “Everybody should be happy with that, shouldn’t they?”

The levy will go before voters on Sept. 14, along with a ballot measure that would replace the current park district with a new entity called the “Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District.”

The new district would be supported by a regular, year-to-year tax levy similar to what the fire district enjoys. The levy amount would be capped at 75 cents per $1,000 valuation, with the base amount to be set by the new metro park district board. Annual tax increases thereafter would be bridled at 1 percent without a public vote.

If voters approve the metropolitan district, it would operate side by side with the old district through 2005, as the transfer of park assets is completed. The current district would be disbanded at the end of next year.

The one-year levy is needed to keep parks open because under state law, the new district cannot begin collecting taxes until 2006.

Park officials were unaware of that fact until recently, after more than 3,300 signatures were gathered to put the metro park district measure on the ballot.

But Lande said having the two districts operate together through 2005 would ensure a smooth and orderly transition.

“I think it’s very much a blessing in disguise,” he said.

It is unclear how many of the current park board members will seek election to the metro district board, which also will be chosen by voters on Sept. 14.

Filing week for all elected positions begins July 26, and other citizens can file for the new board as well.

A public hearing on the one-year levy budget for 2005 will be held at the July 26 park board meeting, at 7 p.m. at Strawberry Hill Center.

– Douglas Crist

Council bows to park deal

Plans for tenant and developer purchase of the Islander Mobile Home Park got the mixed blessing of the Bainbridge Island City Council this week.

By a 4-0 vote, with Jim Llewellyn and Nezam Tooloee abstaining and Bob Scales absent, the council Wednesday endorsed the efforts of the Islander Mobile Home Park Association and developer Kelly Samson’s Madison Glen LLC.

But council enthusiasm was tempered by concerns over future affordability, and lost opportunity for the development of more subsidized housing units there.

“There’s absolutely no way this will remain affordable housing,” Councilwoman Debbie Vann said. “If we think it will, that’s a joke.”

The future of the six-acre, 60-space park just north of City Hall has been in jeopardy for the past year, since long-time owner Pat Alderman announced her plans to sell the property.

At the request of the city administration, the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority agreed to purchase the property for $5.5 million.

The housing authority planned to maintain the park as-is for a decade before redevelopment as a mix of affordable and market-rate units. But the agency then found that it could not secure financing without starting redevelopment sooner, probably in five years.

That left tenants with the prospect of losing the equity in their mobile homes, and an exodus of park tenants within a few years.

The housing authority backed out of the deal earlier this month at the request of tenants, who banded together as a co-operative entity to purchase the park themselves.

Under their plans, at least 50 trailer spaces will be maintained, and the rest of the parcel will be redeveloped by Samson.

Six or more spaces will be purchased by the city for management by a public entity.

Wednesday, council members were lukewarm about the agreement, with Jim Llewellyn saying that the original goal of maintaining long-term affordability in the park was out the window.

“The first time (park spaces) turn over, that’ll be the end of the affordability,” Llewellyn said.

Councilmen Bill Knobloch and Nezam Tooloee agreed that a greater opportunity for subsidized rentals – 100 of 200 new units, if the property had been redeveloped by the housing authority – was gone.

But because the housing authority was now out of the picture, Tooloee said, so were the city and the council, and he did not want to stand in the way of what was now a private transaction.

Tooloee applauded the residents for finding a way to keep the equity in their homes and establish ownership.

“I share their joy in achieving that goal,” he said. “They’ve been very creative and very resourceful.”

Only Debbie Vancil and Chris­tine Rolfes hailed the agreement as an unqualified “win-win,” with residents becoming owners in a neighborhood of modest, detached homes in the heart of Winslow, in a quiet and tree-lined setting.

“Over time...that’s going to be valued by everyone around there,” Rolfes said.

Bill Isley, a mobile home park resident and spokesman, said he believes the cost of shares in the co-op-owned park will remain reasonable over the years.

“I think you’re all wrong that these will become un-affordable,” Isley said. “This isn’t a beach town in Laguna. We really have no amenities, except for being close to jobs and health facilities and so forth.

“Trust me,” he said. “This is gonna work.”

In passing the resolution, the council authorized the mayor’s office to begin negotiations for public purchase of a half-dozen or more spaces, as the tenant co-op and Samson complete their dealings for park purchase from Alderman.

WashPIRG is at your door

The next person to ring the doorbell may want to talk to you about nuclear waste.

The Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG), a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, has announced a grassroots campaign on Bainbridge to pass Initiative 297.

The measure, which is on the state ballot in November, will impose more stringent requirements on the cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Situated along 51 miles of the Columbia River in eastern Washington, the former plutonium plant is the subject of the largest radiation cleanup project in the nation.

While waste treatment at the site continues, the Department of Energy has proposed bringing some 2.9 million cubic feet of low-level toxic debris from other facilities for storage at Hanford.

Initiative 297 would prevent those shipments and require that Washington’s nuclear waste be cleaned up before more is brought in, WashPIRG said.

I-297 would also ban the storage of toxic waste in unlined trenches, and require more monitoring and disclosure of practices at the site.

In addition to mobilizing public support for I-297, WashPIRG will also be distributing “scorecards” evaluating members of Congress and the Washington Legislature based on “public interest” votes during the past year.

WashPIRG outreach workers will be on Bainbridge from mid-July through mid-August.

Information: (206) 568-2855.

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