By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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City Council members unanimously approved a policy Tuesday night to allow residents and businesses to make tax-deductible donations to sponsor pieces of the improvements planned for the shoreline west of North Oak Street, improvements collectively referred to as the city's waterfront transportation improvement plan.
The $3.9 million esplanade construction under way along West Railroad Avenue is part of the larger $17 million improvement plan that encompasses more than 10 separate capital projects.
The proposed improvements also include a new West End Park, an estimated $3.2 million endeavor slated for the waterfront just east of the Valley Creek Estuary.
Businesses or private residents who give predetermined amounts will be listed on a sponsorship wall to be built as part of the waterfront improvements rather than on individually sponsored items, according to the newly approved policy.
Not all businesses will be allowed to contribute.
The policy forbids, for example, political or religious organizations or businesses that primarily deal in alcohol, tobacco, firearms, marijuana or pornography from participating in the sponsorship program.
City Councilwoman Sissi Bruch asked why political or religious groups would be barred.
Nathan West, the city's community and economic development director, replied that the prohibitions in the new policy are standard across the city's existing sponsorship programs.
“We've had this reviewed by the legal department, and [those specific groups] are things we felt it important to have excluded,” he said.
The city will not include any advertisements on the sponsorship wall, according to the resolution, nor will a donation translate to any form of ownership of any part of the proposed improvements.
The city also will not accept donations from businesses that demand substantial design changes to the waterfront improvements or that expect the city to endorse a particular product or service.
Exact details of the program are still being worked out, but interested individuals or businesses can contact the city's Community and Economic Development Department about making a donation, Assistant City Planner Roberta Korcz said Wednesday.
Funding opportunities range from donations of $20,000 or more to create pocket beaches and other shoreline restoration at the proposed West End Park to those closer to $500 for individual benches, bike racks and drinking fountains.
West said the specific donation amounts and what they pay for could be altered based on community input.
“We really want to be able to mold the program to what the demand is,” West said.
Mayor Cherie Kidd praised the policy for the opportunities it will give the community to become a part of the proposed improvements.
“It gives buy-in to the community, and it gives a sense of ownership to the community,” Kidd said.
“I think it's a wonderful program.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.