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County may buy 100 acres for a new regional park

If it proceeds with the $9.7 million deal, the cost would be paid from settlement money set aside for acquiring park land.

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Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
MALTBY -- Land that the University of Washington once eyed for a branch campus could become a new Snohomish County park -- with a functioning golf course already included.
The County Council on Monday is expected to discuss the $9.7 million purchase using settlement money set aside for park acquisitions. A decision on whether to go through with it could come that day or soon after.
If the answer is "yes," the county would gain slightly more than 100 acres near Highway 522 for a regional park. The property includes the nine-hole Wellington Hills Golf Course.
"It would provide a very strategic park resource in that area," County Councilman Dave Gossett said.
Future plans might include ballfields, Gossett said. A decision on whether to keep the golf course deserves more study.
County Executive Aaron Reardon's office and the parks department, which he oversees, negotiated the deal from the county's side of the table. Reardon's spokesman, Christopher Schwarzen, declined to comment.
The UW's Board of Regents approved the sale Jan. 12, following lengthy discussions.
The property would be sold "as is." The arrangement includes a clause allowing the university to participate as an equal partner if the property is ever zoned for development, sold or leased for non-park purposes. The projected closing date would be before the end of March.
County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan said it was gratifying to see the regents support the transaction. Like Gossett, Sullivan said the question about what to do with the golf course requires more thought.
"This type of operation has very high overhead, so that's something that needs to be looked at," he said.
The university bought the property in several parcels between 1991 and 1993 using school and state money, according to a summary provided to regents. The original idea was to use the land for a north-end branch campus, but the Legislature later opted for the current UW Bothell campus instead.
Since then, the university has leased the golf course and clubhouse, which pre-date the school's ownership. To date, the university reports investing $7.8 million in the property, including the initial purchase, infrastructure improvements and management costs.
A decade ago, county and university leaders explored transforming the area into a technology and research hub, with school labs and high-tech firms at the same site. That got scuttled in 2006, when the County Council rejected a proposal to rezone the area to allow an urban industrial park.
Money for buying the UW property would come from a $70 million settlement Snohomish County reached in 2005 over King County's Brightwater sewage treatment plant. A portion of the settlement also paid for Tambark Creek Park, which the county owns jointly with Mill Creek. Other portions were marked for improving roads and fish habitat.
If Snohomish County goes through with buying the UW real estate, it would add to an ongoing expansion wave in the parks system. Late last year, the county extended the Centennial Trail by several miles so that it now reaches Bryant, north of Arlington. Over the summer, the county and the state Department of Natural Resources bought nearly 3,000 acres of forest west of Lake Roesiger for timber-growing and recreation.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

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