WHAT ISLANDERS ARE SAYING
"While some cities are buying new parkland, our Mercer Island City Council members have pledged to give our precious public parkland away — to a private group — so they can plunk down a huge building, with a projected deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for 50-80 years. Furthermore, our City Council made this decision without a vote of the people who own the property — Mercer Island citizens.
…The parkland our City Council agreed to give away includes a beautiful, shaded native garden with its own walking trails, at least 31 species of native plants and other natural attractions. These include a wetland, a solidly constructed Recycling Center that the City Council pledged in 2010 to preserve and re-purpose for community needs and historic Bicentennial Park — funded, designed and built by Islanders over four decades (two generations) ago to commemorate our country’s bicentennial.
The irony is that land is available on Mercer Island — in our Town Center as well as elsewhere — for sale. This land could be purchased by the private group so that the entire community would benefit, not only by saving our public parkland for future generations, but also by bringing together our divided community.
Land once given away is lost forever. Parkland saved for us and passed on to us by former citizens is not given to us for destruction, but is loaned to us to preserve for our children."
"The deal made by our council to replace beautiful parkland and open space near our downtown area with more concrete, mortar, steel, wood and pavement, serious parking issues, traffic congestion and crowding, all for a sum of $1 per year for a lifetime is thoughtless and reeks of special interest motives.
Mercer Island’s open spaces, flora, waterfront and parklands are what make our community a special place to live. The lure of living here is not because of buildings.
Does the community want the NW Theater and the other Arts to be part of the Mercer Island culture? Of course. Just not at the expense of losing our parklands. And for $1 per year – that has to be a fantasy.
Here is the negative truth:
- Beautiful parklands - gone.
- No transparency by our leadership. No vote of the people.
- Serious intimidation tactics used by advocates, including some council members, to silence opponents and to try and prevent a citizen vote.
- A give-a way to private interests at a ridiculous fee of $1 per year.
- Creation of serious parking and traffic problems, with no viable solutions addressed."
-Ed (Coach) & Shirley Pepple
"Any loss of millions of dollars worth of irreplaceable public property (“rented” for $1 per year) to a private developer, is a very serious business. No matter how noble sounding the espoused motive may be, such a significant uncompensated transfer of public assets, from public to private hands, should require the informed consent of those citizens whose property is being seized. We are not trading this property for a public facility, like the Community Center or the Mercerdale Thrift Shop, which we own together, and we operate entirely in the public interest. We are simply surrendering custody of a pubic park and hoping for the best."
"Taxpaying Islanders will have to pay for the deficits (in addition to the $300,000-$600,000 taxpayers are already paying for Mercer Island Community Center annual deficits) if MICA cannot meet its projected $800,000 annual operating expenses. (Arts Centers nationwide are having trouble meeting their expenses.)"
"Mercerdale Park is not New York’s huge Central Park. It is a precious, tiny gem of green relief in an increasingly dense Island center. MICA can seek other Island locations. But Mercerdale cannot. Let’s adhere to the 1998 Master Plan and “Retain publicly-owned parks and open spaces in perpetuity.”"
"Having worked at nonprofits my entire career and now running one, getting funds to build (i.e. capital campaigns) is actually pretty easy. Many grantees and funders like to have a building they can point to. However, the organization I work for is currently renting space from one of Seattle's oldest and most established nonprofits because they built a building and lost funding for operations. MICA is a huge commitment for this community and the entire community should have a chance to vote. That's our democratic process."
"The question of leasing public park land for a $1/yr. to a private, non-profit group, so that group can construct a building with a footprint over 10 times the size of the Recycling Center on it, is a question that our entire community should be engaged in deciding."
"Another huge problem in the proposed MICA plan is their complete lack of on-site parking. Virtually all of the neighboring businesses and shopping centers have said NO TO ALL EVENT PARKING. The lack of CBD parking already creates congestion and pedestrian safety issues; it doesn't seem appropriate to add to this problem."
"The City is considering giving a private developer, MICA, the ability to operate a large-scale business in Mercerdale Park that will not require them to provide on-site parking or pay market-rate rents. These advantages have not been afforded to others. Indeed, with these advantages, a proposed café/restaurant in this complex should be able to undercut tax-paying small business owners, and potentially drive them out of business."
"I love the arts. And I love Youth Theater Northwest. But I want to know why a private organization is using public land for its building. It doesn’t seem right to me."
"MICA has not provided any parking solution. It doesn't sound very community-minded and their proposed (and changing) plans continue to negatively impact our precious Mercerdale Park and surrounding area."
"I wonder what hold MICA has over the City Council. Our elected representatives continue to linger over making a decision that is not financially viable for a community. We’re a community that is already broke & having to raise taxes to support current debts rather than paying for upgrading necessary infrastructure."
"Mercerdale Park is publicly owned land which cannot be replaced. The children and youth of Mercer Island need to experience a wonderful and joyous park as part of their growing up. All children on MI do not have gardens/yards to play in, children living in the apartments in downtown MI in particular. And the many retired residents living downtown also need the park. It is a great place for interaction for multi generations of residents. Mercerdale Park needs to be kept as a park. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. "
"Upon receiving MICA’s 2016 Annual Report in the mail recently, I was struck that in this otherwise detailed brochure, there was no mention of MICA’s plan to construct a building the approximate length of an NFL football field (100 yards) in Mercerdale Park. Was this simply an oversight or a willful lack of transparency on MICA’s part? It’s not surprising that many Islanders still believe MICA’s proposed building will be the same size as the former recycling center. When they understand that it will be significantly larger, they are surprised and, to a person, oppose the plan."
"Maybe the footprint for MICA should be staked out in Mercerdale and balloons be attached showing the height of the proposed structure. I'm pretty sure that the building will obstruct almost all of the view of the green belt which gives Mercerdale it's character."
"A Green Vision for Town Center
In a recent issue of the Seattle Times, Marilyn Smith, a retired lawyer and former Seattle School Member posed this poignant question concerning the status of Seattle in its development as a major city: “As Seattle booms, where is the vision to keep it special?” That’s a question Mercer Island should ponder for itself. Smith states:” The views available to people walking, riding, and sitting are disappearing.” In Mercer Island’s conflict of people and buildings with the natural environment, the environment will lose, as will the quality of the lives of the people who use and live within these buildings. An equitable balance of the natural and the man-made environments should be sought by our City Council. There are design firms available to develop solutions to such problems. Commitment has to come from the communities themselves. How VISIONary is our City Council? Isn’t a long term comprehensive plan of balancing green space with city development important for making our city SPECIAL for its citizens?"
" The Native Garden in Mercerdale Park, located south of the Recycling Center and north of the Skate Park, provides a unique experience downtown of a woodland and wetland easily accessible to the public and is not on a hillside. It could easily be ADA accessible. Its current condition, in part, is because it has not been maintained by the City. It could be significantly improved to include many native wetland species and replacement of weeds with native ground covers and herbaceous plants, and as such could be a valuable, easily accessible educational and recreational resource for Mercer Island schools and citizens.