Forterra and the city

By Paige DeChambeau | May 15, 2013

On Monday, May 6, the Mukilteo City Council voted on whether or not they were going to trust Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservatory) to take the lead negotiation on the Japanese Gulch property.

Forterra is a non-profit that specializes in land acquisition for the purpose of conservation. The council voted to approve a contract with Forterra that helps to get us one step closer to finalizing the deal with the trust that currently owns the 97.7 acres left for sale in Japanese Gulch.

Land conservation acquisition is a unique field and there are just not many groups out there that do this specific work. That is why the Japanese Gulch Group was supportive of the city bringing them on board to take the reigns and to help us get this deal done.

The Japanese Gulch Group believes that Forterra is the most capable organization at negotiating and at seeing this all through to the end. That is why we were very excited to see that the council agreed with this and voted 7-0 in favor of bringing them on board and to let them take the lead in the negotiations. This is a win-win.

Now the mayor’s office can step back and focus on other issues while experienced professionals in this type of negotiations step up and takes the lead.

It is possible that the deal could be done without Forterra’s help. The Japanese Gulch Group believes, and apparently the City Council as well, that it is less likely to be done as professionally and will most likely take longer.

Plus, don’t we want our city officials working day-to-day on city issues and not all caught up in the time consuming intricacies of a full-blown negotiation like this one?

We think that Mukilteo should let the professional negotiators, with all the experienced lawyers in this specific kind of law, do their job and the city officials to do theirs.

Of course, the city will be intimately involved with the details of the deal making whereas we, the general public, may be left in the dark for awhile as the deal is hammered out. The Japanese Gulch Group just wants to see the property get purchased, as fast as possible.

The other good news from the council meeting is that they did not vote to approve another proposition that would be on the August ballot. This is good for taxpayers, as you can be sure the city isn’t going to be asking you to vote to raise your taxes during the August primary.

The Japanese Gulch Group feels that at this point it is best to wait and see if we can use the money we will have shortly (from the state, county and other private donors) to start to negotiate the deal and will see how far that gets us in acquiring the property.

The group is planning on starting a sustainability campaign that will help raise funds that will go toward purchasing the gulch. Will you help be part of that campaign?

Once we know better where all the cards will fall, then the picture will be clearer of what is needed from the city, and ultimately, from the citizens.

Though, the Japanese Gulch Group stands in the belief that the taxpayers have shown us (by a clear majority) that they are willing to raise their taxes to save and preserve Japanese Gulch for all the generations to come.

Even though the proposition failed to get the 60 percent supermajority that it needed to pass doesn’t mean that we should disregard the voice of the majority of people who are in support of the acquisition.

To do that would be to go against the will of the majority and stop pursuing the conservation of Japanese Gulch, which we know will help improve everyone’s quality of life by increasing land value as well as the environmental effects.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance we have before us in purchasing this property for conservation.

Never before have land prices been so low. Never before has Snohomish County and the state Legislature stepped up in such a monumental way to save a piece of property from development.

Never before has the community rallied around a project of this magnitude and agreed to raise its own taxes to save a parcel of land.

This means that if we do not act now we may never have the chance to save this land again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there is no going back. This land could be lost to development forever.

Paige DeChambeau is the director of the Japanese Gulch Group, whose mission is to purchase the Japanese Gulch property and save it from development so that it can be turned into a park.

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