Preserve land fund
The Charter Commission should strengthen the 2 percent land fund (for the Public Access Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission, or PONC), not reduce the amount or cap it.
The 2 percent land fund has been in existence since 2005, which is almost 14 years. Only 14 properties have been purchased, and now there is $16 million sitting in the fund.
Why isn’t the county buying land? That question is especially pertinent since this land fund was mandated by 63 percent of voters three times, and the public has submitted 161 ideas for properties.
The acquisition process takes time. After a citizen recommends a property to PONC, then it is vetted through PONC and hopefully makes the recommendation in the report to the mayor in December of each year. Then the appropriate council member needs to write a resolution to direct the director of finance to acquire the property, and staff goes to work.
Staff contacts property owners, conducts appraisals, land surveys, flora and fauna inventories for endangered species, floodplain studies and looks for matching funds to maximize our tax dollars, etc. This work can take longer than a year. The staff usually is assigned these duties, as well as other property management jobs to do, so all their efforts are not concentrated on property acquisition.
This is why there is so much money in the fund, and properties are not being acquired. A full-time staff position should be created so we can fulfill the wishes of voters.
Please do not reduce the 2 percent land fund amount. The charter could be changed to provide salary for staff dedicated to the administration of the 2 percent land fund program, which would include land acquisition and the maintenance fund. If the staff salary was paid from the 2 percent land fund, this would help the Department of Finance by saving the cost of a staff salary.
Please don’t reduce the land fund. Instead, make some changes to strengthen this voter-mandated program by adding staff paid for out of the land fund.
We ask that the charter commissioners and Mayor Harry Kim do NOT reduce the 2 land fund, and do NOT put a cap on the amount in the fund. Property acquisition takes time, and properties are expensive.
The 2 percent land fund program could easily work better with your expertise of changing some and/or adding rules.