By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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The three commissioners said additional legal questions needed to be answered before a park and recreation district, proposed to mirror the boundaries of the Port Ludlow Master Planned Resort, is put to Port Ludlow area voters.
The main legal question that commissioners wanted more information about was whether a park and recreation district would keep Port Ludlow residents from being included in a countywide metropolitan park district.
“There isn’t a definitive answer on whether there could be that overlap,” said David Alvarez, Jefferson County deputy prosecuting attorney, at the Monday morning commissioners meeting.
Commissioners must approve the boundaries and set the official name of the proposed district before it can be placed on the ballot in the November general election, Alvarez said.
“I would like to hear more opinion on this,” County Commissioner David Sullivan said at the meeting.
The proposed district came before commissioners after Ron Gregory, a Port Ludlow resident, helped organized a campaign to collect enough resident signatures in support of a Port-Ludlow-centered park and recreation district.
The Jefferson County Auditor’s Office confirmed that Gregory and other Port Ludlow residents collected 485 signatures, 337 of which were determined to be valid.
The petition needed 337 signatures to be eligible for the Nov. 5 ballot, the auditor’s office said.
“I would suggest to you that the voters have spoken, and they will speak again this November,” Gregory said at the meeting.
In a later interview, Gregory said he would like to see the Port Ludlow park and recreation district put in place to keep Port Ludlow residents from paying additional taxes for park facilities elsewhere in the county that Port Ludlow residents would not use as part of a larger metropolitan park district.
“People who signed [the petition], we’re assuming that we would be immune from a metropolitan park district,” Gregory said.
All the park and recreation facilities Port Ludlow residents have access to, which include pools, a park and trails, are all currently funded by homeowners-association dues, Gregory said, and are only accessible to homeowner association members and their guests.
If approved by voters, Gregory said a Port Ludlow park and recreation district would likely not institute a property tax levy more than what would be needed to pay for the district’s insurance costs.
Only the residents living in the three voting precincts that comprise the Port Ludlow Master Planned Resort would pay such a tax, Gregory added.
Gregory said the district would have no plans to buy any of the existing Port Ludlow park and recreation amenities and make them open to the general public.
At the Monday public hearing on the issue, Port Townsend resident George Yount, chair of the Jefferson County Democrats, said he did not see the need for such a park and recreation district, especially if the facilities are not public.
“I can’t go there and swim,” Yount said.
“I’m not sure this is really a valid approach.”
Fellow Port Townsend resident Steve Oakford echoed Yount’s concern.
“I simply do not think they should be part of the public process unless they open their facilities to the public at large,” Oakford said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.