Group wants $183,000 to save gulch

By Sara Bruestle | Jul 18, 2012

The city of Mukilteo recently sold a property on the corner of 3rd and Park, and the Japanese Gulch Group would like to see its proceeds go toward saving the Japanese Gulch.

The non-profit group asked supporters to “pack Council Chambers” on Monday to show the city that they want the $183,300 to go to the acquisition of Japanese Gulch.

With the sale of the property, Mukilteo City Council saw a need to adopt a general policy on what to do with the proceeds of a sale of a city asset. For now, council has agreed to disagree on the best policy.

About 20 gulch supporters were there to ask that council allocate the funds from that sale toward the last 97 acres of undeveloped land in the Japanese Gulch for parks and open space.

They requested that the council adopt a policy where the proceeds of an asset will be used to purchase a like asset, such as parkland for parkland.

“Our group and the city staff are hard at work, applying for major grants for land acquisition, but as you’re aware, we’re having a terrible economy and there’s really not that much out there by way of grant funding,” said Sabrina Bolieu, executive director of the group.

The city Parks and Arts Commission has also requested that council allocate the funds to trails and open space. Their No. 1 priority is land acquisition of Japanese Gulch.

“Every commissioner in the city of Mukilteo wanted land acquisition to be the No. 1 priority,” said Liza Patchen-Short, a Parks and Arts commissioner. “This is a once in a lifetime amount of money that we have, and if we don’t purchase this land it’s going to go on the market.”

JGG is working in partnership with the city of Mukilteo to acquire all 140 acres of undeveloped land in the gulch. The city owns all but the last 97 acres.

The city is currently in negotiations with the owner of the property, Metropolitan Trust. The land is worth an estimated $7 million.

“The timing of this is quite critical in that this support would critically increase our asking power,” Bolieu said. “This would also demonstrate that the community really does value the Japanese Gulch.”

Council watcher Charlie Pancerzewski said the city should reimburse the funds it used to buy the Precht property. The city purchased 8 acres of the gulch in 2009 from Precht Trust for $1.9 million.

Council’s plan was to reimburse the city with the proceeds from sales of several city owned properties, including the lot at 3rd and Park. As of now, just this property has been sold.

“I think the council should also take a look at how much money has been spent on parks and recreation in the last few years to see if there’s a real balance between the various needs of the city and the residents, or if perhaps we need to slow down,” Pancerzewski said.

Councilmember Randy Lord agreed that the city’s needs are more than just parks.

“The city has been working aggressively hard to preserve that park,” he said. “We’ve bought 25 acres, and we’ve already spent more money on parks in the last four years than I think the city has spent in the last 50.

“We can’t do that forever and ever.”

Lord said the council should first carefully check its list of priority projects before deciding to spend assets from a sale. His motion failed 4-3, with Councilmembers Steve Schmalz, Kevin Stoltz, Richard Emery and Jennifer Gregerson voting against it.

“Not every sale of an asset means that the best use of it is for us to buy another asset,” Lord said.

Other councilmembers agreed with the JGG that the best use of these funds would be to go toward a capital purchase or fixed asset – like parkland.

Council President Richard Emery made a motion to allocate the funds to like assets, with the 97 acres in mind. His motion failed 5-2. Gregerson was the other for vote.

“For me slowly working to preserving the rest of the gulch would be at the top of my list,” Gregerson said.

“We have invested a lot in parks in the last few years, but I’m not embarrassed that we’ve done that. I think it’s a testament to the lack of investment before that."

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