In a recent editorial, I outlined the rationale for change in city leadership. My opponent, appointed to the mayoral position last year, has made some statements in response that bear closer examination.
The 156th Street overpass will be paid for entirely with tax dollars. Any ‘partnership’ extended simply to the city charging property taxes to pay for the overpass. To the extent those taxes were paid by private entities and used by the city to build the overpass, it could loosely be defined as a ‘partnership’ — though I believe most would classify it as a tax.
The only entity to not pay Local Improvement District (LID) fees to the project was Costco. As my opponent pointed out, Costco was allowed to apply a previously negotiated tax break to pay its share while other businesses ponied up the funds needed to build the overpass. Businesses like ACRO Machining INC., which employees over 50 people in Marysville, have had their property taxes increased to pay for the 156th Street overpass, even though they will see no benefit and did not get a development fee give-back like Costco received.
I also said it was important that such overpasses connect to I-5. I appreciate my opponent acknowledging this point in his response. It’s good to hear he will retroactively attempt to add freeway on-ramps. Any new overpasses will connect to I-5 from the beginning when I’m mayor.
My opponent also acknowledges the new Walmart at 64th and SR 9 is going ahead, a fact which continues to surprise many local residents. In fact, this project seems to be the best-kept secret in Marysville. While Mr. Nehring recounted the minimal fees Walmart has paid, he did not deny they will benefit from a new city ordinance giving big-box retailers a 50 percent exemption on traffic mitigation fees. The Walmart project had been on hold since 2007. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Walmart applied for new permits just days after the new ordinance became law. The fact remains that this property should never have been zoned for commercial use. SR 9 and 64th are simply not prepared to handle the traffic impacts from our area’s planned third Walmart.
The former Coca-Cola bottling plant was purchased for $3.75 million in taxpayer funds, with a vague plan to build some sort of government campus on the land. The property’s assessed market value was $3.3 million at the time of sale and its value continues to fall. As my opponent acknowledges, plans fell through and the city sold off some of the land to Parr Lumber for $2.3 million. The 2012 valuation of the total 10.2 acre parcel of land is $2,014,200 with the building valued at an additional $864,800. At that rate, each acre is worth about $200,000, but the mayor wants you to believe that 2.8 acres is worth $800,000. The most disingenuous thing that the mayor said in his response was that the city “also has a purchase agreement for Parcel 2.” Parr has an option to purchase more of the property later. Parr Lumber may or may not exercise that option sometime in the next six years. The city paid over $450,000 too much for the property in 2010. After the initial sale to Parr, the city is still $1.45 million in the red no matter how you spin it.
Finally, at no time did I claim the city paid for a consultant to explore impacts of a new Whatcom County coal terminal. I said the city relied on a consultant’s report, a fact which my opponent confirmed in his response. I also said we didn’t need a consultant to tell us that nearly doubling the amount of train traffic would have negative impacts on Marysville commutes. In any case, the point isn’t about the consultant. The point is we need to find efficient ways of getting us over the tracks, and that’s why I am committed to securing funds for overpasses connecting to I-5. That’s just common sense — no consultant needed.
Candidate for Marysville Mayor