The Pierce County Council’s Rules Committee this morning killed a proposed ballot measure that would have asked voters to raise property taxes to preserve farmland and other open space.
By a vote of 3-0, the committee voted to postpone the measure – proposed by County Executive John Ladenburg – indefinitely.
Committee members cited unanswered questions, falling home values and a lack of accountability in the proposal as reasons to table it. They spoke of improving it and possibly trying again in 2009.
The proposal would have asked voters in November to raise property taxes by up to 16 cents per $1,000 assessed value to buy the development rights to farmland, timberland, recreational property and other open space for preservation. The money would have been used to repay the cost of bonds used to pay for the program.
It would have raised an estimated $8.7 million in 2009. According to Ladenburg, it would have cost the owner of a $300,000 house a little more than $2 a month.
The executive billed the program as a way to preserve precious land in a county that is rapidly developing. He said it could be used to buy farmland in rural areas or remaining open spaces in urban areas.
But County Council members expressed concern over the lack of a specific list of properties to be preserved. They also had questions about how land would be chosen for preservation. And they expressed concern that raising taxes at a time of falling property values would be a bad idea.
"I think we are in volatile times," said Councilman Shawn Bunney, R-Lake Tapps, a member of the Rules Committee.
Councilman Calvin Goings, D-Puyallup, said he’s working on a proposal to establish a task force to address some of the council’s questions and report back early next year. He said it’s possible the county could take a proposal to voters in 2009.
"I think it’s incumbent on us to move forward with a Plan B," Goings said.