Residents uncertain about incorporation

SUQUAMISH — The idea of incorporating Suquamish has residents coming forward with ideas, asking questions and sitting back, waiting to see what will happen.

Many of these questions primarily deal with finances, something that the leader of this effort, Matthew Cleverley, is in the middle of researching and is hoping to answer soon.

Cleverley is chair of the Suquamish Incorporation Project, which recently proposed the idea to create a mayor/council government within the area. So far, Cleverley said he has received strong support from the residents he has discussed the issue with.

“They voiced a lot of support to what we’re doing,” Cleverley said. “Whether or not it can ultimately achieve the goal of becoming a city, it has inspired people to be a part of the process and be involved a lot more.”

He has estimated about 3,200 to 3,500 people live within the proposed city boundaries and has researched other cities in Washington that recently incorporated and are similar in size to Suquamish, such as Newcastle and Spokane Valley.

However, some Suquamish residents are still up in the air about what could take place.

Ken Grimes said he isn’t sure what incorporating will accomplish.

“There are so many changes around here, I think people are in culture shock,” Grimes said, referring to the new casino on Highway 305 and construction work on Suquamish Way and Augusta Avenue.

Grimes said he used to live in Kingston and would drive through Suquamish enroute to the Bainbridge Island ferries and would typically see few cars on the road.

“It’s a lot different,” he said, adding he’s not sure how the mayor/council system would work either, given the Suquamish Tribal government.

Barbara Morrison of Pirates Cove Steak House in downtown Suquamish said her customers have been talking about the pros and cons, but she is finding a negative outcome as a result.

“Most people don’t think it will come to light — people think there is enough taxes down here,” she said.

Bella Luna Pizzeria owner Bob Rowden said he thinks incorporating is a great idea, both as a entrepreneur and a resident.

“I think it’s great for business,” he said, agreeing with the idea that some leadership and organization needs to be established in the area. “Just as long as no one feels that toes are getting stepped on ... it should be a winning situation for everyone.”

As a homeowner in Suquamish, Rowden said he believes a city government could help establish more pedestrian-friendly streets.

“In the small towns, I grew up in Eastern Washington, all the towns had sidewalks for kids to skateboard on and people to walk on,” he said.

Suquamish tribal member Tom Adams said he believes the tribe could work with other governments. While Adams said he feels there is some anti-Native American sentiment within the community that would work against it, he also thinks the tribe and community could work together.

“I’d have to wait and see how it goes. I don’t know how most of the tribal members would vote,” he said.

As for the tribe’s official perspective, tribal spokesperson Leonard Forsman said the tribal council has not released a decision on the matter and is still investigating the proposal. However, a majority of the land within the proposed incorporated area is tribal-owned, Forsman said last week.

Adams said he also wants to know how this city would be financed, especially with the possibility of the casino property being transferred into federal tribal trust land, which would take about $33 million off the property tax rolls.

Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery said the area within the proposed boundaries would bring in about $500,000 in revenue from property taxes, with or without the casino land. However, that doesn’t include possible sales, utility and lodging taxes, plus licensing and franchise fees.

Cleverley said the group realizes the city would not be able to provide for all of its services at first, which would include a land-use planning department, law enforcement, road maintenance and administration and park maintenance.

Cleverley said he is also aware that Initiative-860, the latest citizens’ initiative proposing to cut 25 percent from property taxes, would have some potential impact.

But there are other sources of revenue that would be accounted for, he said, such as a shared sales revenue, a tool used by the state to support cities that don’t have a big enough sales tax base.

Cleverley estimates the new city could bring in $1.2 to $1.8 million through other means other than property taxes, such as a retail sales tax, utility business occupation tax, real estate excise taxes, fees from business licenses, potential lodging and gambling taxes and transportation revenues.

However, the group is still in the information gathering stages for a budget, Cleverley said.

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