A development group, with which Bothell mayor Joshua Freed is involved, has begun the pre-application process to allow development of 50 houses on the back nine of Wayne Golf Course, a proposal which has caused unease in the Bothell community. Many hope to see the back nine preserved as an open space.
Jesse Sears, president of OneBothell, a group dedicated to preserving Wayne Golf Course for a variety of reasons, including environmental concerns, said the pre-application development process is standard practice for developers.
“He’s doing everything that a normal developer would do,” he said.
Pre-applying for development raises the appraised value of the property, allowing Freed, who is in negotiations with a preservation group called Forterra, to raise the purchase price.
While the company does not yet own the land, the Richards family who currently owns the property is in a binding agreement to sell to it, Sears said.
The problem for the community, Sears thinks, is the perception that the mayor is acting more in the interest of his development company at the expense of resident’s wishes.
“The community feels like he’s trying to maximize his profits against the community,” Sears said.
Forterra has been in purchasing negotiations with the company since June, when it agreed to sell the back nine to the organization. No potential appraisal price has been made public, but both Sears and recently elected Bothell City Council member and former president of OneBothell, James McNeal, believe Forterra has secured enough funds to purchase the property. Funding is secured through private investors and state and county grants, which must be paid back.
Sears said while these funds are fluid, he believes there has been enough financial interest for Forterra to proceed, even though OneBothell is not privy to negotiations.
Despite community concerns, Sears also thinks Freed will continue negotiations with Forterra.
A joint statement, issued by Forterra and the potential development company from Nov. 23, states they are in a voluntary transaction negotiated in “good faith,” that Forterra was aware of the pre-application meetings and that external communications about the effort were “premature and inappropriate.” It also stated the time elapsed since the June agreement is “both normal and expected.”
In a statement, city of Bothell representatives, who are not privy to the negotiations, said they hope “that Forterra is successful in their efforts” to buy the property.
McNeal said the effort to raise property value before sale was worrisome.
“I’m very disappointed, to say the least, at the approach (Freed is) taking with this,” he said. “As a man, as a Washingtonian, I don’t even understand it.”
McNeal resigned his position as the president of OneBothell when he was elected to the city council on Nov. 3 to avoid a conflict of interest and said the idea of keeping Wayne as an open space has been in the city’s comprehensive plan for nearly two decades.
“Is there really a reason to change that to allow additional building next to a habitat that you’re trying to preserve or restore,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to me, I would not do that to my community.”
A phone call to Freed was not returned as of Monday afternoon, but Bothell Councilman Mark Lamb, who is a representative for the development company, directed inquiries to the joint statement.
Negotiations have been occurring over the future of the Wayne Golf Course since the owner, Dave Richards, sent the city of Bothell a notice the golf course was up for sale in November of 2013.
The Bothell City Council declined to make an offer on the property during an executive session and then a sale agreement was reached between the development company, with ties to Freed, and the Richards family.
Aside from preserving open spaces for community use, many groups interested in the Wayne properties are concerned about the salmon habitat in the Sammamish River which runs along the back nine of the course.
The river, and another stream which runs through the back nine, provide spawning grounds for the salmon, who are adversely affected by warming water temperatures, which Sears said development on the course would create.
Preserving as much open space as possible in a quickly developing Bothell is what McNeal said he will be focused on during his term on council.
“Not everything can be saved, but the point is you have to try,” he said.
Bothell City Councilman Tom Agnew said he hopes the mayor sells the property to Forterra.
“I just hope the mayor and his staff try to do the right thing for the citizens of Bothell. That’s all we can hope for,” he said. “They have an opportunity to do the right thing, and do something very significant for the city and the citizens.”