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Promoters say excise tax is needed to save farmlands, beauty of Clallam County

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES, WA-- Wally Gudgell abhors taxes.

But the San Juan Islands real estate agent completed the trek to Port Angeles Thursday to publicly promote -- of all things -- a new tax.

Called a buyer's excise tax, it would require homebuyers to pay up to 1 percent of a property's sale price to preserve county farms and agricultural lands.

Promoters are trying to get the excise tax on the November ballot.

``When you protect farm lands and the aesthetics of a region, more people will want to come here,'' Gudgell told the Clallam County Economic Development Council on Thursday.

Gudgell was joined by excise tax boosters Bob Caldwell, a member of the Clallam County Agricultural Commission, and Nash Huber, owner and operator of Nash's Produce in Sequim.

``We put a 12-year sunset clause on the tax,'' Gudgell said of the revenue producer in San Juan County.

``After 12 years, voters approved [another 12 years for the tax] with 72.8 percent of votes. They recognized its value.''

Caldwell said that funds from the tax would buy out development rights to lands, effectively protecting them from any other uses besides farming.

``Endangered farmland throughout the county will be eligible for protection by the [excise tax],'' Caldwell said.

On Thursday, the EDC endorsed placing the tax on the November ballot -- even though the decision ultimately rests on the Clallam County Board of Commissioners.

Philosophical lines drawn

However, philosophical lines were drawn in the sand at Thursday's meeting.

While Caldwell argued that Clallam County has already lost more than 75 percent of its farmland in the past 50 years and an excise tax is the best way to halt the trend, others said such a tax would hurt first-time homebuyers.

``It's a regressive tax that would affect people who could least afford it,'' said Mike McAleer, a Sequim real estate associate broker and EDC member.

``I don't think a lot of people would support it.''


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