The Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks (CCMIP) filed a second Protect our Parks initiative petition, based on a “no-net-loss” of parkland provision, with the city on June 30.
The initiative stipulates that “all lands and facilities held now or in the future by the city of Mercer Island for park and recreation purposes, whether designated as park, park boulevard, or open space, shall be preserved for such use.”
After receiving their ballot title on July 11, the group has until Oct. 10 to file signatures representing 15 percent or more of registered Island voters. As of Nov. 2, 2015, the last general election, there were 17,414 active registered voters in Mercer Island.
Earlier this year, CCMIP filed a similar petition to protect Island parks and open spaces from development. After a contentious campaign, the group did not collect enough signatures to place its initiative on the November ballot.
Another citizen group, Support Mercer Island Parks and Arts (SMIPA) ran a “decline to sign” campaign after the first initiative was filed, claiming that it would affect the planned Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) in Mercerdale Park.
The city is currently working on a longterm lease with MICA, pending a State Environmental Policy Act review and parking study.
The new initiative would require the city of Mercer Island to replace any sold, leased, transferred or changed park property with equivalent or better property or facilities in the same vicinity. It would also require the City Council to have a public hearing regarding the necessity of the transaction.
“All of our parks need such protection in order to be preserved as publically owned and available for public purposes so that our legacy of parks will be passed on to future generations,” according to the initiative, filed by CCMIP member Peter Struck.
The wording in this initiative is similar to the first, but does not specify allowed parkland uses. The first initiative specifically mentioned “performing arts center” as a non-parkland use.
Robynne Parkinson of SMIPA said that her group opposes the new Protect our Parks initiative “because it is unnecessary and ultimately unworkable on Mercer Island.”
“Unlike the last ordinance proposed by CCMIP, this ordinance does not appear to impact the proposed Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) because the construction of MICA is consistent with park uses,” the group said in a statement.
CCMIP has based its initiative on a similar one passed in Seattle in 1996. SMIPA stated that “the Seattle ordinance is not appropriate for Mercer Island, given the lack of available land on the Island comparatively to Seattle, making the requirement of finding replacement property an undue burden on management of the parks.”