The conservation group Forterra announced its purchase of the 89-acre Wayne Golf Course along the Sammamish River, ending a threat by a former Bothell mayor to develop the back nine with luxury houses.
The conservation group Forterra announced Wednesday it had secured a purchase agreement and interim financing for Bothell’s 89-acre Wayne Golf Course, ending a threat by former Mayor Joshua Freed to develop the back nine with luxury houses.
After months of negotiations, the conservation group said it had reached a deal with Freed’s investment group to acquire the 39-acre back nine for $7.1 million.
Forterra also said it would become the interim owner of the 50-acre front nine, which it is buying for $3 million from the Richards family, operators of the golf course for 63 years. King County in 1993 bought the conservation easement to 46 acres of the front nine, but the owners had proposed building 76 townhomes on the remaining four.
Forterra has advanced the money to Freed’s group, but it must pay off the money within three years. Michelle Connor, Forterra’s executive vice president, said her organization will work with the citizens group OneBothell, the city of Bothell, King County and the state to raise the money to pay back the loan and permanently preserve the land for public recreation and wildlife habitat.
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Bothell leaders are also considering a parks bond measure that would help fund the purchase of the golf course and other open spaces in the city. OneBothell President Jesse Sears said the group looks forward to working with the community about how the property might be used.
The golf course features about a mile of Sammamish River frontage, a historic apple orchard and farmhouse, acres of woods and proximity to Blyth Park and the Burke Gilman and Tolt River trails.
Connor called the land “one of the last large, private undeveloped acreages anywhere in the central Puget Sound metropolitan area.”
King County already has awarded $1 million in conservation easements for the purchase, and the Legislature last session appropriated $1 million more.
Freed bought the rights to the back nine when a city option to purchase the property lapsed in 2013 without notice to the public. He didn’t disclose his interest until early 2015, and it touched off a storm of protest in Bothell, including a giant “Impeach Freed” sign near the golf course. It also sparked creation of OneBothell and a slate of three City Council candidates who won election in November by making the golf course’s preservation central to their campaigns.
On Wednesday, city and county leaders took a conciliatory tone, noting that as a developer and homebuilder, Freed could have gone forward with his planned subdivision.
“Today’s a day for celebration,” said King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who represents the area. “But nobody should forget that it was a fight, a tough fight.”
Freed, who remains a member of the Bothell City Council, did not return a call requesting comment. He released a statement through Forterra saying he was “proud to be part of the historic preservation of the Wayne Golf Course.”
Andy Rheaume, who was elected mayor last month by the new council, said the purchase was an opportunity to greatly improve habitat for endangered chinook salmon, Lake Washington kokanee and steelhead.
“What a great statement for our community to make about our city and what it values,” Rheaume said.
New Bothell Councilmember James McNeal, said he’s already reached out to other cities along the Sammamish River to enlist their help.
“Woodinville, Redmond, the city of Sammamish, Kenmore, they’re all watching. They all want to participate in the restoration of this river,” he said.