News

Tollgate levy removed from ballot

NORTH BEND - A $3.56 million levy to buy the "central meadow" portion of Tollgate Farm and preserve it as open space has been taken off the Nov. 6 general election ballot, one month after the measure was narrowly defeated in a primary election.

With that news came reports that the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) is negotiating with Miller Land and Timber Co., the owner of Tollgate Farm, for the central meadow. An article in the Oct. 11 Seattle Times attributes TPL spokeswoman Andrea Fullerton as saying an announcement concerning the negotiations was likely to occur Tuesday.

When contacted by the Valley Record, Fullerton would not confirm negotiations were taking place, saying she didn't know where the Times got its information.

Campbell Mathewson, vice president of CenturyPacific, the company working with Miller Land and Timber to develop Tollgate Farm, would not comment when asked if there were negotiations with TPL officials.

North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson said an announcement would be made at the City Council meeting Tuesday night, which occurred after the Valley Record went to press.

Expecting a deal to be reached between the TPL and Miller Land and Timber, Simpson called King County election officials on Oct. 5 to stop the levy from being put on next month's ballot.

Simpson said Tuesday that she asked a majority of City Council members whether the levy should be taken off if someone was willing to buy the land. They said it should be removed if that were the case.

Then, she said, "I called [County Executive] Ron Sims to see if it was possible."

The levy, which on Sept. 19 the City Council had voted to place on the general election ballot after it failed to win voter approval in the Sept. 18 primary election, would raise money to buy the central meadow, north of State Route 202 between Snoqualmie and North Bend.

Last week, council members Jim Gildersleeve, Fred Rappin and Mark Sollitto confirmed that Simpson had talked to them about taking the bond off the November ballot. Rappin said it was a foregone conclusion that the council would remove the levy if someone else was willing to pay for the land.

"There would not be a whole lot of reason to keep it on the ballot," Rappin said.

Bob Bruce, manager of the King County Records and Elections Division, said Oct. 5 was crucial because that was the day the county created the general election ballot. He said a city official can ask to strike a ballot proposition, but it should be followed up with an ordinance approved by the City Council calling for the removal and received by the county before Nov. 6.

"People don't do that unless they can convince us of at least a reasonable assurance of support for it," Bruce said.

Plans to develop the 410-acre Tollgate Farm have been in the works since 1996. TPL and King County officials bought about 330 acres of the farm this summer, which left the central meadow and another 30-acre parcel.

For the past several weeks, the City Council has reviewed a revised plan for the Tollgate Farm development that reflects the summer purchase.

The $3.56 million levy was put on the Sept. 18 primary election ballot, but it didn't receive the necessary 60 percent "yes" votes. After county officials were done tabulating the results, the levy had garnered 707 votes, or 57.02 percent, out of 1,240 total votes.

Several volunteers have worked since summer on passage of the levy, calling themselves Friends of Tollgate. Until last week, there had been no formal opposition to the measure.

But a group led by Gildersleeve, an outspoken critic of the levy who had recused himself from deliberations concerning the revised Tollgate Farm development plan, met for the first time Oct. 11 at the Red Oak Retirement Home, calling itself Friends of North Bend.

At the meeting, Gildersleeve, citing recent developments, acknowledged that Friends of North Bend may not have a levy to oppose.

"I think in the next couple of weeks the whole Tollgate thing will be over," he said.

You can reach Ben Cape at (425) 888-2311, or e-mail him at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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