Newspaper Archive of
Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island, Washington
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December 15, 2004     Mercer Island Reporter
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December 15, 2004
 

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I IM% REPORTER l Ua dREPORTER LETTERS Wednesday, December 15, 2004 A5 sland issues SERVING THE MERCER ISLAND COMMUNITY SINCE 1947 Stephen Weigand, Editor and General Manager Peter Horvitz, President , Catherine Shen, Publisher Published by King County Journal Newspapers Proposal serious con Last week's announcement of a proposed $14 million oint project to benefit the Island's youth was a blockbuster The proposal to relocate the Boys & Girls Club to a new facility on the school district's North Mercer campus is an impressive convergence of needs and creative solutions, and a challenge to the city and the school district to work,to- gether with the Boys & Girls Club to make it happen. Under the proposal, the Boys & Girls Club would get new offices and a teen center housed in a 28,000-square-foot building at North Mercer. The new building would bring the club closer to its clients and centralize many services for the Island's youth in one place. The Mercer Island School District would receive six to 10 classrooms in the new building to help with its need for more high school space. The district would also get about 120 more badly needed parking spaces for the high school. For years we've been hearing about demand out- weighing the supply of fields and practice space for recre- ational and high school sports. Under this proposal, a 26,000-square-foot field house would be built for use by a variety of sports, from lacrosse to basketball to pickleball. In addition to the $2 million that local athletic boosters are looking to raise and the Boys & Girls Club's $9 mil- lion contribution --including an estimated $4.5 million from the sale if its current facility -- $2 million is sought from the school district and $1 million from the city. The proposal by the club and athletic boosters was pitched to the City Council just last week and the School Board the week before. Taken as a whole, this project is a wonderful opportu- nity. Our only reservation stems from the tight timeframe involved to make it all happen in time for the 2006 school year. Organizers would like the School Board and the City Council to decide as soon as possible. This is a large, important project with great impact. Let's make sure we take the time needed to ensure that all questions are answered. Lu ur Luther Burbank Park is that won- derful natural setting on the Island's northeast shore that many Islanders take for granted. Now, however, we are faced with the disturbing prospect that drastic changes may be on the horizon and the park needs our help. While King County was becoming increasingly urbanized, citizens in the 1970s realized the value of preserving the few undeveloped areas that remained and taxed themselves to create parks and open spaces. Mercer Islanders were blessed to have an area that was recog- nized as a special place, and i(became Luther Burbank Park. We are now for- tunate, once again, that King County, under financial stress, has gifted this unique natural asset to the citizens of Mercer Island. Many of us are aware of the rich his- tory of Luther Burbank Park. The school established here nearly 100 years ago housed troubled youths who learned to value hard labor by helping to raise their Boys & Girls Club, park I would like to make short com- ments on two things. A tittle background, I have lived on Mercer Island for almost 38 years; owned a small restaurant on the Island for for years, from 1984- 88 (Down The Hatch, now Pon Proem), and was part of the com- mission that studied ways to man- age our growth that was mandat- ed by the legislature. I am strongly in favor of two things that have been reported in our paper in the recent past. First, moving the Boys & Girls Club in proximity of the high school is a wonderful thing. This will al- low many more children of all ages to take advantage of its services. In return, it will allow private home construction on what was previ- ously non-taxed property. I can think of nothing better for both the city tax rolls, and we the people. My second comment concerns the discussion about building a ma- rina, and a restaurant on some of the Luther Burbank property. Again, this is a win-win, as far as Mercer Islanders are concemed. We love our island, but don't want our taxes to be raised. Having taken over the park, this would certainly assist the city in managing the park with lit- tle cost to us, the consumers. In addition, I believe that there are enough Mercer Islanders who would happily support a "view" restau- rant, since many of us do not have those wonderful water views. Marcia West Response to pro- development letter The pro-development author of "Don't raise taxes" (Reporter, Dec. 8) did such a great job of support- ing the anti-development case re- garding Luther Burbank Park that only a few additional comments should complete a strong anti-de- velopment argument. Regarding his first point: "ad- ditional taxes to pay fw mainte- own food and developed inquisitive minds through a curriculum that in- volved exploring and studying their com- plex environment Friends of Luther Burbank Park was organized in 1988 to support and advocate for the park. Thousands of hours of hard work have been put into restoring wet- lands, repairing shoreline erosion, plant- ing trees, maintaining trails and native vegetation, preserving historical struc- tures, hrelping set up an area for off-leash dog exercise, to cite some examples. The articles of incorporation of Friends "em- phasize its natural environment, broad vistas, and unspoiled shorelines af- fected primarily by the forces of nature." This vision speaks to many in our busy world even more appropriately and elo- querttly today than when it was written. In November 2003 the voters of Mercer Island made a definitive statement when we voted to tax ourselves to operate and maintain the park. Now, for reasons that are not clear to many citizens, the City AI4 C OIl l .-. A II:} Gez IqG RALPH B O B CALDWELL CLARK nance" Didn't we already pass the maintenance levy last year? It takes care of the next five years for $66 per million dollar property per year. Next is the attempt to paint those who oppose development as "a very vocal group of people" as though we were just a few rabble- rousers. Development supporters, on the other hand, "are not activists and don't go to the forums" Well, silly me, I thought we lived in a democracy where the people who got involved, voiced their opinions, and voted got to decide. The real beauty of "we are not activists" is that it makes the argument that the City Council's final "Master Plan" should go to a vote of all Mercer Islanders because it assumes that not all voices have been heard. Insisting that the Master Plan be acceptable to the majority of citizens is a concept all sides can support. Next comes the fiction that com- mercial development equals prof- it for the city equals free lunch. Just ask the taxpayers of Kirkland, Seattle or Renton how that one worked out! The developers and operators of the restaurants and boating facilities, meanwhile, cel- via the ballot box, of providing the: ebrated their good fortune, necessary dollars through an in- : Last, but not least, is the "too crease in real estate taxes. valuable to lock up" description of the park. Ah, the developers' manlr& Jim Rauch -; Isn't that why it is called Luther ~,~ Burbank Park and not say, LB Yacht " Club. Please let the city know (phone, letters, e-mail, Web site) that you want a vote on the "Master Plan." Charles Selfridge Luther Burbank Park plans should go to ballot At the Dec. 2 meeting at Island Middle School we heard citizen input loud and clear that we don't want a full scale marina or year round restaurants at Luther B~ Park. Surprisingly, we also heard many citizens saying they would accept real estate tax increases to maintain the character of the park. Therefore, before the City Council goes ahead with allowing any major commercial project(s) for financial support of the park, the citizens should have the option, to include revenue-producing activities ur is a response to a currently popular no- tion of the "public-private partnership." This sounds like a good deal at first glance. Maybe we can pay fewer taxes while getting an improved park! However, as with most partnerships, both parties need to benefit. And it so happens that in most of these partner- ships the benefit to the private side is taking control of public assets. This al- lows the private entities to collect de- velopment fees, management fees, user fees, financing fees, even donor fees if you try to give money. In exchange, the pub- lic gets a major development. Citizens also take on the debt or the risk of losing the park (if it has been pledged as col- lateral), or both. Before the city or the voters get too ex- cited about saving taxes by developing a park, we had all better do our home- work. If this is truly an open process as it insists, the City Council should welcome the opportunity to explain the important Council has decided to entertain the idea of commercial development in the park. Since the park is paid for through at least Ralph Caldwell is president of Friends 2009, one is led to the assumption that this of Luther Burbank Park and Bob Clark is sudden urgency to create a "Master Plan" vice president. To the residents of Mercer Island, , The Mercer Island Guild of : Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center is in the process of putting together the 2005 edition of our unique Mercer Island (phone) Directory. If you are new to Mercer Island and want to have your phone number listed or if you ~e a amera n.~s- ident who needs to update your listed information now is the time to make these changes known. Additions, changes and deletions will be made when you contact Kafin at 232-7046 or LaVeme at 232-0762. Time for this wansaction is short, so act now. As a result of an amazing 3,468.~ hours of volunteer work in the year 2003-2004 by guild members and Please see Letters on A6 } ! elements of the Master Plan, when com-, pleted, to the citizens of Mercer Island. I This would then allow an informed vote I based on the merits, risks and financial { obligations of the plan. J Meanwhile, the city continues to seek i your input through its Web site, e-mail (luther.burbank @ city.mercer-island.wa.us), phone (236-3570) or fax (236-3651) or through the "visioning process" -- the fi- nal session is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, at Islander Middle School. Tell the city you want to vote on its Master Plan. The park and Friends of Luther Burbank Park i could really use your support. Please go to the last visioning meeting, contact your City Councilmen, and get involved with "Friends." Our e-mail is: FriendsLBP@aol.com and our regular mail goes to RO. Box 552, Mercer Island, WA 98040 What do you think about the proposal for a new Boys & Girls Club facility on the high school campus? (Asked at the Boys & Girls Club.) "It'd probably be good to "It's so exciting. They've "1 think it would be great to have a few more TVs for been working on this do that. I think the Boys & Xbox and stuff, and moreforever. It's encouraging to Girls Club is kind of small. It snack selection and for sure a lot of people who havewill give room for people to a bigger room with been putting their time and play and do their updated eguipment." energy into this." homework and stuff." Joshua Casady, 12 Beth Tanner Charlie Sun, 12 Seattle Mercer Island Mercer Island ISLANDER MIDDLE SCHOOL CLUB OFFICE MANAGER ISLANDER MIDDLE SCHOOL "1 hope to see some of the same stuff, like we have a lot of artwork here." Julia Moss, 13 Mercer Island ISLANDER MIDDLE SCHOOL I | "This is a really nice building""It'd be more convenient for me i.! with lots of color and artwork, because I live right by the high ~I but at the same time, there'sa school. At the same time, we just 2.j lot of entrances leadingto got done painting This building i'~ nowhere and it's kind of old." could be restored or we could start Nicole Schilling, 11 all over (at the new site)." ~n Mercer Island Elizabeth Harris Scruggs, 11 i ISLANDER MIDDLE SCHOOL Mercer Island ' j ISLANDER MIDDLE SCHOOL j 11 :I : ~ '' "= =" ~" " ~ : ' g i";::~" '~":" : " " ' "' ' " ~ ~" ' '~ ' ""~';"i t