LYNDEN - City residents will have a chance this November to vote on a $9.5 million bond to renovate the Delft Square building downtown to house a new YMCA.
If it's approved by a simple majority, the 30-year bond will be paid for through property taxes on residents of the Lynden Regional Park and Recreation District, which shares the same boundaries as the Lynden School District. With an estimated tax of about 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, the owner of a house valued at $279,000 would pay nearly $80 per year.
The current YMCA building, at 100 Drayton St., is owned and maintained by the city, and it has extensive problems, said Gary Vis, executive director of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce. Those problems include mold, an undersized gymnasium, a needed locker room remodel, an inadequate air conditioning system and problems with the pool.
"This has been about a 15-year effort to figure out a fiscally responsible way to deal with the current (YMCA) building," he said.
Delft Square, located at the corner of Fifth and Front streets, has been empty since it was damaged in a fire in 2008. If the YMCA moved into the spot, it would be within a few blocks of City Hall, the library, the new Jansen Art Center and the community center, creating a strong downtown core, Vis said.
But some residents are concerned about the new plan, said Anne Culbertson, a YMCA member who is opposed to the bond. She's talked to people who don't think an exercise facility is a good idea in a retail area, and that other businesses might be better in Delft Square.
But Vis said that Delft Square is the most affordable - by nearly $3 million - of about a dozen locations that the district has looked at for the new YMCA. And he hopes that it will bring people downtown for more than just exercise.
Culbertson also is wary of the timing; $9.5 million is a lot to spend when the economy is weak and money is tight for local government and families. While it certainly would be nice to have a bigger, better facility, Culbertson said, she doesn't think it's fair that everyone in the city should pay for something that benefits only YMCA members.
"It just doesn't seem like the city should be in this kind of business because it isn't supporting the entire community," she said. "It's only those who wish to swim and exercise and play basketball. And it feels like it will only put us in more trouble."
Though the time might not be ideal, district chairman Terry De Valois said he wants to make sure that a new facility is in place before the issues at the current building cause it to shut down.
If the bond is approved, the park district would buy Delft Square once the current owner renovated it. The district would own the building; the YMCA would lease it for as little as $1 per year and would assume all operations and maintenance costs associated with running the facility. Maintenance on the current building is paid for by the city.
Lynden voters face another money measure on the Nov. 6 ballot as well: a two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for city street projects. If passed, the additional sales tax is expected to raise about $300,000 per year for street projects that have gone ignored during the past few years of tighter budgets.
BOND INFO SESSION IS OCT. 17
People interested in learning more about the bond issue can attend a presentation at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Lynden Community Center, 401 Grover St. Dave Brumbaugh will represent the Committee for a New Lynden YMCA and Anne Culbertson will represent opposition to the bond. After the presentation, audience members will be able to ask questions.
Reach ZOE FRALEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2803.