The conservation group Forterra has offered to purchase the Wayne Golf Course’s front nine under an agreement that will come before the Bothell City Council on Tuesday. The deal would hold the land for three years so Bothell can raise money to buy and preserve it.
The conservation group Forterra has offered to buy the Wayne Golf Course front nine, 50 acres along the Sammamish River in Bothell, and hold the land three years to give the city time to raise the funds to buy it and preserve it as open space.
Bothell’s City Council will consider the offer Tuesday, but it’s not clear how soon a decision might be made.
The council also is expected to get an investigation report on the involvement of Mayor Joshua Freed in an offer to privately purchase the 38-acre Wayne back nine for development.
Freed, a homebuilder, disclosed in March that he’s part of a group that successfully bid to buy the back nine after the city allowed a right of first offer to lapse in early 2014 without taking action or notifying the public that the land was for sale.
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Some residents accuse the mayor of putting his own financial gain before the interests of the city. They and other council members have questioned whether the mayor had a conflict of interest when he made the offer to buy the back nine.
Freed denies wrongdoing and said he didn’t act until after the city’s purchase option lapsed. He didn’t return calls for comment Monday.
Bothell City Attorney Joe Beck said the council will get the investigative report in executive session, then it likely will vote whether to make the findings public.
A group that wants the golf course preserved for salmon-habitat restoration and public recreation has lobbied the city to buy the entire course ever since the private owners in December sought permission to rezone 4 acres around the clubhouse and parking lot for 76 townhomes.
“We’re super excited,” said OneBothell member Jonty Barnes. “Forterra has an amazing track record for doing projects that balance recreation and conservation.”
The city bought a conservation easement for 46 acres of the front nine with King County funds in 1996; the land can’t be developed. But the easement doesn’t include the clubhouse area.
OneBothell has applied for county and state grant funding available for salmon-recovery. The threatened chinook spawn on tributaries of the Sammamish River, but their numbers have declined sharply over the past decades.
The back nine is owned by David Richards, of Mukilteo, while the front nine is owned by Richards and two brothers. The family has owned and operated the golf course for several decades.
Forterra said purchase of the golf course represents a rare chance to restore about one mile of river habitat.
“There are not many opportunities in the Seattle metro area to make as large an impact as can be made here,” said Jordan Rash, Conservation Director for Forterra, formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy. Rash said the nonprofit has played a similar role with other land buys, financing purchase of property to protect it while helping preservation advocates raise public and private funds to pay back the organization.
The City Council will have to weigh what value the front nine has, because the city already has paid $890,000 for development rights to 46 acres.
Del Spivey, a council member and deputy mayor, said he supports preserving the golf course, but he said he wants to hear Forterra’s plans and ask questions before making up his mind.
“Yes, I’d like to see the Wayne Golf Course preserved. Yes, I’d like to see the public have access. Some people would like to see it all go back to nature. I think there’s a balance to be found there,” Spivey said.
King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski said he’s optimistic that funds can be raised to preserve all of the golf course, but he added, “I don’t want to spend a lot of taxpayer dollars to protect something we protected 20 years ago.”
Dembowski said the biggest practical hurdle to securing all the land is Freed’s option to purchase the back nine.
“I don’t think he should be in the way of achieving this important objective.”