Frequently Asked Questions

 

“Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks is a group of Islanders working to save Mercerdale Park from private development. The Mercer Island City Council is proposing to lease, for $1 a year, nearly an acre of Mercerdale Park to MICA, a private organization, so they can construct a 28,000 square-foot building. The construction would destroy Bicentennial Park, the Native Garden and threaten nearby wetlands.
We strongly support Youth Theater Northwest and the arts. We simply oppose the taking of millions of dollars worth of public property and popular amenities from the citizens to be given to a private organization without any opportunity for a democratic vote by those citizens.”

 

1.  Won't MICA's building be the same size as the "old" Recycling Center?

The Recycling Center footprint is approximately 1,800 square feet.  The MICA footprint is 21,890 square feet--more than 12 times as large as the Recycling Center footprint.  The Recycling Center is one story high. The MICA building would be 35 feet (3½ stories) high. It would be 270' long (the approximate length of an NFL football field).

2.  Hasn’t the City Council already approved MICA in Mercerdale Park? Isn't this already settled?

No.  The City Council has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on which a lease could be drafted.  However, before the lease can be finalized the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) application process must be completed, including appeals.  The City is projecting August 2017 as a probable date to either (a) give a decision regarding MICA’s SEPA application or (b) request more time to complete the SEPA review.

3.  Hasn't the Native Garden become just an overgrown and non-maintained space where teens hang out and get into trouble? Wouldn't an arts center be an improvement?

Our Parks Department, assisted by a group of community volunteers, maintains the trails in the Native Garden, pulls invasive plants by hand and removes trash. Teens enjoy the trails and benches, as do seniors, adults walking their dogs, and families with children. An arts center would NOT be an improvement over the Native Garden. Our Native Garden--which also includes a wetland that welcomes wildlife (including mallard ducks)--currently supports AT LEAST 31 DIFFERENT identified species of native trees, shrubs and flowers. This link on our website allows community members to find, identify and enjoy these native species in the Native Garden.

4.  Will MICA be built next to Bicentennial Park?

No, MICA would completely destroy Bicentennial Park. The circular steps and seating area, paved plaza, flagpole and surrounding gardens of Bicentennial Park, currently maintained by the City, would be flattened and paved over for a delivery driveway and access to MICA’s garbage cans.

5.  Sports activities receive tons of support on the Island, so why not lend a hand to Youth Theater Northwest (YTN) for those kids in the arts?

Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks (CCMIP) supports all positive forms of engagement and development for the youth of Mercer Island including the arts.  CCMIP just doesn’t support a large private building in the public park.

6.  Doesn’t CCMIP want to keep YTN on Mercer Island?

Yes, CCMIP wants to keep YTN on Mercer Island. CCMIP believes that YTN contributes to the development of Mercer Island youth. Having YTN on the island is a value-added dimension of the Island. CCMIP fully supports YTN's accessing underutilized facilities and/or building on private land on the Island.

7. Does YTN really need a 28,000 sq. ft. building to present their programs?

It does not. By MICA's own estimate, YTN is projected to represent less than 10% of their total annual revenue.

8.  CCMIP was unable on two occasions to get the required signatures to put the issue up for a vote so doesn't that mean Islanders support MICA in Mercerdale Park?

The ballot is the proper way to engage the voters about projects of importance such as placing MICA in Mercerdale Park.  In order to put an initiative on the ballot Mercer Island City Code requires 15% of the voters on the Island (approximately 3000) to sign a petition--double the percentage required by the State of Washington.  The CCMIP petitions gained almost 2500 signatures each. Also notable is that a majority of the City Council has refused to include the protection of Mercerdale Park public parkland on the biennial survey and has also refused requests to put this issue on the ballot. Many Islanders continue to share their concerns, questions and objections about siting MICA in Mercerdale Park on NextDoor.com and in the Mercer Island Reporter. As more information is released about MICA’s plans for Mercerdale Park, many more citizens are becoming concerned about MICA’s co-opting a huge piece of public parkland as a building lot.

9.  Why is CCMIP against MICA and funding arts on Mercer Island?

CCMIP is not against MICA and funding arts on Mercer Island.  What CCMIP is against is using Mercer Island’s only urban park for MICA’s building. 

In fact, in an attempt to save public parkland for everyone in our community, a Mercer Island citizen has offered a 7-figure donation to kick-off a fund to purchase private property in Town Center for MICA. This would provide MICA with a central location and protect our public parkland.

10.  MICA is offering to pay $25 million to build a new center for Islanders so why shouldn't we donate a small piece of Mercerdale Park in return?

There are numerous reasons why MICA should not be placed in Mercerdale Park:

a.  MICA initially offered to RAISE $25 million, not PAY $25 million.  In MICA’s most recent documents, this amount has been reduced to $20 million.  MICA proposes to pay the City $1 a year for rental, leaving in question the financial obligations of the City in the event that MICA does not raise the $20 million or cannot cover the annual operating costs.  The City has reportedly offered to provide $2 million, a figure MICA included as expected from the City in an application MICA submitted to 4Culture for funding.

b.  The MICA structure would destroy the natural habitat and ambiance of the Park. It would also destroy both Bicentennial Park and the Native Garden.  The proposed MICA structure would be even higher than the current Northwood Elementary School (which is 30 feet high) and almost as long (270 feet).  The MICA building would be an imposing structure in the park and would destroy the wooded vistas and natural greenery adjacent to the perimeter path and lawn. 

c.  The MICA lease would also usurp the SE 32nd Street right-of-way forfeiting it as an option for the City’s transportation needs.

d.  MICA would be built on soil of questionable stability.  Deep pilings would be required to support the structure.

e.  MICA is seeking a variance to reduce the wetland buffer from 50’ to 25’. MICA’s impact on the wetlands that are part of the park and adjacent to the building has not been determined.

f.  MICA would create ponds for runoff that could pose a danger for children.

g.  MICA would impose on use of the skateboard park, the perimeter path and the great lawn during outdoor performances.

h.  MICA's proposed location at the base of a steep slope would require excavation of the toe of the hillside presenting landslide and earthquake hazards.

i.  MICA proposes a new fire lane from SE 34th Street that is 490 feet long and 20 feet wide--more than twice the width of the current walking path.

j.  MICA has no parking plan except use of the public parking that would result from the re-striping of 77th Avenue SE. Any re-striping of 77th is controversial given the City’s current traffic challenges, concern for drop-off and pick-up safety and the desire to preserve the dedicated north/south bike lanes.

11.  Wouldn’t MICA’s center "activate" the park and draw more of the community to the location?

Mercerdale Park is already a heavily used park where citizens of all ages enjoy the urban park setting.  It is actively used year-round by citizens engaging in a wide variety of physical and social activities.   One of the ways that MICA proposes to draw even more people is to include a café that serves alcohol (though currently prohibited in city parks). The proposed café would unfairly compete with existing Town Center restaurants and businesses. Far from adding to the park, MICA would alter the ambiance that residents and visitors currently enjoy.   

12.  The Thrift Shop already has a building in Mercerdale Park so why not a building for MICA?

The Thrift Shop is NOT in Mercerdale Park. In addition, the Thrift Shop is a City operation, not a private development.

13. Is a "non-profit" organization private or public?

Sometimes people are unsure whether a non-profit organization should be considered public or private. We view nonprofit organizations as private, the same as for-profit companies. It is just a different financial structure: no profits, but a federal tax exemption granted to donors. The leadership of a nonprofit is un-elected and unaccountable to the public, only to the IRS and to the people it hopes will donate money or volunteer.