BELLINGHAM - Residents of southwest Bellingham will have a chance to vote next February on forming a metropolitan park district to help pay for the city's purchase of Chuckanut Ridge.
Supporters of the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District turned in enough petition signatures - more than 1,100 - to get creation of the district on the ballot for a special election Feb. 12, according to the Whatcom County Auditor's Office.
The district's boundaries, roughly, would encompass southwest Bellingham - south of Western Washington University and west of Interstate 5 to the water. Voters in that area will decide whether to form the district and elect five commissioners who, in turn, would raise property taxes within the district to generate more than $3.2 million.
The tax would be 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a $300,000 home, for example, would pay $84 a year. The district is expected to exist for no more than 10 years.
The money would repay a loan of the same amount, plus interest, from the city Greenways endowment fund that helped pay the $8.2 million price tag for the city's purchase of the 82-acre Chuckanut Ridge, also known as the Hundred Acre Wood, in August 2011. When the City Council approved the financing plan to buy Chuckanut Ridge, members said the sale of a portion of the property could be used to cover the more than $3.2 million taken from Greenways, if no other means could be found.
The park district will give the city an option for paying back the loan from the endowment fund, which is intended for park maintenance rather than land purchases.
"We are excited to have found a plausible and fair way for the citizens to step in to repay the loan that made the purchase of the 100 Acre Wood possible," Chuckanut Community Forest Steering Committee chairwoman Robyn du Pre wrote in an email. "And given the response that we received to the petition effort, (we're) hopeful that we will finally secure the entire property for future generations and put this issue to bed."
She thinks the issue is important enough for southside residents that they'll vote yes in February.
Reach ZOE FRALEY at email@example.com or call 360-756-2803.