After getting 58%, Japanese Gulch backers will try again

MUKILTEO — There’s a reason why supporters of a defeated tax measure to buy land in Japanese Gulch are heartened to keep pursuing their dream.

Proposition 1 failed because, as a tax levy, it needed 60 percent approval to pass. But it received a higher percentage of votes than many election winners.

“We outdrew the president, the governor and marijuana,” said Todd Hooper, president of the Japanese Gulch Group, a non-profit organization that promotes preservation and recreation in the gulch.

With only a few votes left to count countywide last week, 6,065 people had voted yes and 4,334 no — more than 58 percent approval.

Supporters hope to parlay this support into contributions and perhaps another ballot measure.

“The community really is interested in this project,” Hooper said.

The measure had no organized opposition. Resident Charlie Pancerzewski wrote the statement against Proposition 1 for the voters pamphlet, contending the measure would benefit only a small percentage of people who live in Mukilteo.

Those who voted in favor were willing to pay 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — $60 per year for the owner of a $300,000 home — for five years, to buy a chunk of property on the west side of the gulch.

The tax measure would have raised $3.2 million toward an estimated $6.5 million needed to buy a 98-acre parcel. It’s currently owned by Metropolitan Creditors Trust, a bankrupt Spokane mortgage company, and zoned for light industry.

The gulch is a popular hiking spot. Boeing and the Burlington Norther Santa Fe Railroad own most of the rest of the gulch, which straddles Everett and Mukilteo near the Boeing plant.

The Japanese Gulch Group’s board of directors met after the election and agreed to pursue some type of fundraising campaign in the coming year, Hooper said.

Specifics haven’t been decided except for more pursuit of grant funding, he said.

So far, $500,000 has been raised. The group plans to seek up to $1 million from the state, along with a $700,000 grant from Snohomish County and other smaller grants.

“It all adds up,” Hooper said.

City Councilwoman Jennifer Gregerson, a gulch advocate, said votes that came in after Election Day were trending more than 60 percent in favor.

If the group attempts another measure, “We just need to speed up our voter outreach a little bit and we’ll be able to make it,” Gregerson said.

She said a measure could be brought back in 2013, in April or November. One option would be to ask voters for a “levy lid lift,” which would then allow the City Council to raise property taxes by more than the standard 1 percent for the stated purpose. This would require only a majority vote.

“I think our council would be committed to that, and then the voters would have to trust that commitment,” she said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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