The Bothell City Council has unanimously voted to move forward with the acquisition of Wayne Golf Course.
Councilmember James McNeal called the acquisition of the property a “once-in-a-lifetime” occurrence.
“The impossible is possible if you have the right people supporting you,” Deputy Mayor Davina Duerr added.
The motion will allow Bothell City Manager Jennifer Phillips and city staff to move forward with developing a purchase agreement for the 89-acre property.
Before the council voted on the matter, more than 20 people participated in the visitor comment portion of the meeting to share their support for acquiring the land to turn it into the Wayne Sammamish Regional Park.
“It is a rare and beautiful piece of property,” Barbara Harris said. “There are not enough of these spaces left. … (With the Burke-Gilman Trail,) people can come from all over to enjoy this property.”
David Bain added, “We have the opportunity to create a world-class riverside park.”
“To sit here and see all of you out there, it’s an amazing thing,” McNeal later said to the audience. “I want to thank you, the community, for making sure we, the council, hear you loud and clear.”
Current First District State Sen. Guy Palumbo and former First District State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe were also in attendance to share their support for the acquisition.
“This was an amazing community experience,” said Palumbo, who was involved with the citizen group OneBothell in helping to keep the Wayne Golf Course land as open space.
The city wants to purchase the land by the end of this year from Forterra, a conservation organization that has been working with the city, King County, state officials and OneBothell to preserve the land.
“Forterra is proud to have joined forces with the Bothell community,” Michelle Connor, Forterra’s executive vice president of strategic enterprises, said at the meeting. “This is your time. Those privileged to visit the Wayne Sammamish Regional Park will thank you.”
Forterra purchased the back nine of the golf course in February 2016 and closed on the acquisition of the front nine in May 2016, agreeing to hold the property for three years to allow the city, county and state to identify funding to purchase it.
The total estimated cost to acquire the land is $10.9 million, and the city’s contribution will be somewhere between $3.6 million and $5.6 million. City staff is encouraging the council to use bonds paid off with park impact fees to fund the acquisition and Councilmember Tris Samberg raised concerns about how much that will ultimately cost the city in bond payments.
“For me, it’s a hard decision because we don’t have the money (right now),” she said.
Bothell finance director Tami Schackman estimated the bonds would last 20 years, with annual payments of $80,000 for every $1 million borrowed.
Councilmember Tom Agnew also raised concerns about the use of councilmatic bonds, which don’t require a vote from Bothell residents but are instead approved by the council.
“I’m not a huge fan of councilmatic bonds,” he said.
Once the park is acquired, parks and recreation director John Keates estimates it will cost the city between $175,000 and $200,000 annually for maintenance.
Before approving the motion to move forward, Bothell Mayor Andy Rheaume hinted at the controversy that has surrounded the city’s process to acquire the land.
“This was a lightning rod that shot through the city government and the community,” he said. “We answer to you (Bothell citizens) … (and) there’s no way I would ever vote no on trying to get this done.”
Questions of a conflict of interest for then-Mayor Joshua Freed, who is still a city councilmember, arose in 2015, when it was revealed that a development group he is involved with had begun the pre-application process to allow the development of 50 houses on the back nine of Wayne Golf Course.
An investigation by the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) concluded that the Bothell City Council violated open meetings laws by discussing the potential purchase of Wayne Golf Course during a 2013 executive session, and then allowing the right of first opportunity to purchase the back-nine property to lapse without taking the issue to a public council meeting.
The June 20 motion to move forward with the acquisition of the property was approved by a 5-0 vote, with Freed and Councilmember Del Spivey absent.