Long-awaited community center vote is here

Make sure to drop your ballot off, or have it postmarked, by 8 p.m. on April 23.

This is it — the vote for a new community center is next week.

Enumclaw residents have been awaiting the April 23 special election ballot’s $19.5 million bond measure that, if approved by 60% of local voters, will fund a new community center on the corner of Cole Street and Initial Avenue.

If you’ve somehow avoided all the news and opinions, the city’s four open houses, and the numerous Facebook posts about this project, here’s an overview.

The community center, if built, will include a new senior center; offices for Arts Alive!, the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce, and Enumclaw’s Parks and Rec Department; a full-sized gym and an attached exercise room; rentable classroom spaces; a covered commons area (with retractable walls); and an outdoor pavilion.

The project is expected to cost around $21 million, but the bond is less because the city has already earmarked some of its own money for the project, and has secured other donations and grants.

The bond will tack on an additional tax rate of 30 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value — for the average property owner in Enumclaw (with an APV of $500,000), that comes out to about $12.50 a month. Proponents of the community center have noted this is roughly the cost of two cups of coffee.

The bond will last for 29 years, so that adds up to $4,350 total for the average property owner.

However, the bond structure is set up so additional grants might decrease the taxpayer burden. This also includes leasing out or selling the current senior center building.

It should be noted that only people registered to vote in Enumclaw’s city limits will be able to vote on the measure; business owners that own property in town, but are not registered to vote here, will not be able to submit their ballot.

Below are some frequently asked questions, but more information is available on the city website at cityofenumclaw.net/604/Proposed-Community-Center.


What other options are there?

According to the city — none. Or, at least none that would have been a good fit for the current plan.

This whole project started at least February 2022, when the city decided a brand-new senior center was necessary to serve the growing 65-plus year old population because remodeling the century-old building would mean spending more money than it is worth.

Beyond space issues (some programs have to be held in other rented spaces, or personal hygiene care services have to practically rub elbows with the pinochle players), “The overall condition of the building… is really poor,” an architect who studied the building said in 2022 council meeting. “Most of the building systems and elements are beyond repair.”

This includes the roof, the walls (which are not seismically sound), kitchen equipment, and the HVAC system.

In fact, the only good news was that the water lines were in good repair, the architect added.

As the city council explored what options they had for a new senior center, conversation snowballed into building a community center that would have options for a wider range of ages and more space for community events.

The more controversial aspect of the plan among elected officials was the full-sized gym; however, Councilmember Chance La Fleur, an early supporter of the project, said that during his long tenure, he’s heard many comments about how there’s few free activities for youth to do around Enumclaw, and that a full-sized gym would provide at least some space for that.

All in all, the council spent almost a year looking at various community center options before settling on the current plan, with six out of the seven council members supporting putting the bond measure to voters.

Can we change the look?

Perhaps one of the biggest detraction some people have about the proposed community center (beyond the additional tax) is its design — many appear to feel it’s too modern for Enumclaw’s rustic aesthetic.

Elected officials and city administration have said that the current design is meant to keep costs down while also attempting to match the downtown style, which include brick walls.

But the design process is not complete, and if the bond is approved, there will be additional opportunities for the public to weigh in on the final look. However, some councilmembers have pointed out there could be extra costs when it comes to changes.

How design changes at this phase could affect the overall project is unclear, though additional donations and grants could end up covering additional costs.

What are the fees and maintenance costs?

In general, the community center will be free to use for locals and visitors alike, though there are fees for Parks and Rec programs like its K-5 basketball leagues. There are higher fees for non-residents than locals. The department hopes to expand with the new indoor gym, but not raise rates.

While Parks and Rec works to be self-sustaining, there will likely be additional maintenance costs when it comes to running the senior center that the bond does not cover, like staffing and utilities.

Rentals at the center, like the classroom spaces, the commons area, and the kitchen, will go toward offsetting the estimated $100,000 in maintenance bills. This would cover at least a half-time receptionist and full-time custodian, as well as utilities.

The city has said the current senior center, the Arts Alive!, and Chamber buildings are not energy efficient, and a modern building’s energy uses should come out to be equitable to the current costs.

At this time, both Arts Alive! and the Chamber cover their own utilities, and the city waives, respectively, 65% and 100% of the rent in the current spaces. If the community center is built, “we would expect to negotiate a monthly rent for their space,” City Administrator Chris Searcy said in an email interview.

Additionally, proponents have pointed out that there are numerous volunteers that already staff the senior center, Arts Alive!, and Chamber buildings, and if the community center is built, those forces would combine and could have an effect on paid staffing and costs.

How will this affect parking?

The community center will definitely take up parking space in the lot it would be built in.

However, more parking spaces will be added when the Arts Alive! and Chamber buildings are demolished.

Additionally, with the new parking spaces near the library, downtown area parking will have a net increase of about 70 parking spaces, if the community center is built.

Proponents have also noted that the senior center currently has less than a dozen parking spaces, and there are safety concerns with seniors crossing the busy Cole Street and Stevenson Avenue intersection when they have to park further away.

The city also expects the currently under-utilized Stevenson Avenue and Railroad Street lot to be used more for west-side downtown parking, if the bond is approved.

What about seniors that can’t afford the new taxes?

King County has a few ways to mitigate the tax burden on seniors and people with disabilities, including veterans.

If you’re 60 and older, own your own home, and have less than an income of $89,000, you can defer your property taxes (they become a lien on your property until you pay it off).

And if you meet the above requirements, and annual is under $84,000 (including Social Security and other sources) you can apply to be exempt from property taxes, and you may be able to pay less taxes, or none at all.

To apply, head to kingcounty.gov/en/dept/assessor/buildings-and-property/property-taxes/tax-relief/senior-or-disabled-exemptions — or head to the local senior center, where volunteers and staff will help you navigate the process.