La Conner will mull options for Jenson property development


March 13, 2024

Town officials over the next few months will begin examining potential options for the Jenson property located south of Channel Cove near the Maple Avenue approach to Pioneer Park.

The Jenson family sold the land to the town at a reduced price – about one-third its assessed value – on condition it be utilized in the best interest of the community. Suggested uses for the property have ranged from affordable housing to a public garden.

“We have saved the letters and emails that we have received about options for the use of the property when it was acquired by the town and we will develop other avenues through which additional community comments will be received, including another ‘mingle,’” Town Administrator Scott Thomas wrote in a report to the council for its March 12 meeting.

The town has held conversational mingles at the Civic Garden Club Building addressing short-term rentals and downtown parking. Each received positive reviews for fostering open dialogue.

“These materials will be compiled and provided to the council at a later date,” Thomas said.

Town staff will share data related to land-use requirements, zoning regulations and potential costs with council members.

In his report, Thomas also noted that La Conner will experience another round of high tides through March 14.

“(The) Public Works (Department) will then begin to remove and store the temporary sandbags, which will take two weeks to accomplish,” said Thomas.

The sandbags were deployed prior to king tide season last fall as part of flood mitigation remedies developed and recommended by the Emergency Management Commission.

“La Conner was very fortunate this year,” Thomas said. “(Public Works) Director Brian Lease states that this is the first year that normal tidal flooding did not occur – yet.”

In his report, Thomas followed up on a list of major public works projects planned over the next decade. One of those is the aging Channel Drive water line.

“Due to the continued failure of the Channel Drive water line,” said Thomas, “we have begun to take steps to replace that line. Currently, we have asked the engineers to complete the construction drawings for the project.”

The project is expected to cost several million dollars.

“We are identifying grant opportunities and assessing other means to pay for this project,” Thomas said.

Thomas also submitted to the council a report spelling out funding sources for the town’s recently established Transportation Benefit District, formed to maintain and upgrade streets, sidewalks and transit service. The two primary funding sources are vehicle license fees and sales and use taxes. Town staff favor a 0.1% sales tax that would generate about $45,000 per year.

“Because a good portion of the sales taxes collected by La Conner are paid by visitors, we think that a sales tax is an appropriate way to distribute the costs of maintaining and improving our transportation system,” Thomas said. “We also recommend that one half of the revenue collected be banked and ultimately applied to the First Street extension project.”

Thomas reported that once he receives direction from the council, he will draft an ordinance reflecting the panel’s decisions on funding sources, plus a transit benefit district budget.

“A sales tax increase would become effective July 1 at the earliest,” he said.


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