Washington

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Back Nine of Golf Course Sold to Conservation Group

4 Jun, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

A Washington state mayor has effectively settled a dispute between a developer and a neighborhood by agreeing to sell part of a golf course to a conservation group. The land, to be used for recreation and as a wildlife refuge, borders the Sammamish River.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed ‘s agreement concerning selling the 39-acre back nine of the Wayne Golf Course to the conservation group Forterra, put an end to the golf course owner’s plan to sell the land and build 50 high-end homes.

Forterra has until Aug. 6 to complete an appraisal of the back nine and secure financing for the purchase of the land. If the parties complete the transaction, Forterra will begin working with the city of Bothell, King County and the state to fund purchase of the entire golf course.

The issue with Wayne Golf Course has been going on for some time, according to the article. A total of 46 of the 50 acres comprising the front nine are protected by a conservation easement, but in January, the golf-course owners sought a rezone from the city to build 76 town homes on the five acres around the club house and parking lot that weren’t protected.

In March, Freed (a home builder in the area as well) recused himself from City Council discussions of a potential purchase of the golf course, saying he had already successfully bid to purchase the back nine.

Freed was cleared of any conflict of interest in the deal in April by an independent investigator who found he did not act until a city option to buy the back nine had lapsed. Residents were critical of Freed and the City Council for not informing the public in late 2013 that the land was available; however, these days, they’re pleased with the outcome.

 “I think it was the community stepping up and getting involved,” said OneBothell president James McNeal. “Their voices being heard made the difference.”

The use of golf courses as habitats for wildlife is one that has long been encouraged by environmental interests; Audubon International is one of these and also offers a Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf.

The Wayne Golf Course is not the only facility to be transformed, either whole or in part, into recreational space. Florida’s Admiral Lehigh Golf Course, a public facility, opened and closed in the 1960s. The property was purchased by Lee County Parks and Recreation in 2008 and transformed into the Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park, offering trails, meadows and other recreational space.

Read full coverage of the Wayne Golf Course issue here.

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