5 Acre Woods - the Last Frontier?

Saturday, July 8, 2017

By Donna Hawkey

5 Acre Woods (5AW), the largest parcel of undeveloped property in Lake Forest Park, gained strong support from the LFP city council at their June 29th special meeting.

Jean Reid, Vice President, Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation (LFPSF) said she thinks “the council was very impressed with the outpouring of support shown at all the council meetings, but when the over $100,000 in resident pledges came rolling in, that may have been the deciding factor showing further that this community is very committed.”

But what really led to all this are the many, many volunteer hours from the passionate and dedicated work of the LFPSF and the Friends of 5AW.

The 20-year-old LFPSF non-profit 501(c)(3) has been leading this purchase effort with grant writing efforts and helping to identify other funding resources for the city.

Currently LFPSF is in a negotiation process with the city for determining how LFPSF could play a future role in all this.

After the council’s executive session on June 29th, Catherine Stanford, LFP’s Deputy Mayor made an announcement. Here are some excerpts from that announcement, the full statement can be heard on the city’s website.

“The process with the Stewardship Foundation is going very well at this time… We are happy to say that we will continue to meet, and again, work towards our common goals for preservation.”
This buck returns to the 5AW every spring
Photo courtesy 5AW

LFP city council also voted unanimously on June 29th to sign a “Waiver of Retroactivity,” Resolution 1620, so they can remain eligible for funding that would help further defray acquisition costs. The city is also exploring a bridge loan that would be paid back from various future funds and grants. And both House Representative Gerry Pollet and King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski have expressed solid support of this project.

Seattle Public Utility (SPU) recently put the property on the active market, however “SPU has a history of long-standing ethos of environmentalism, so let’s hope that public ownership of the property as a park will be a factor when they evaluate bids,” said Julian Andersen, President, LFPSF.

To date, $625,000 in conservation grant funding has been acquired for a city purchase. A municipality must be the purchaser of this public land to be eligible for this and other funding. The $625,000 in grants require 100% conservation of the site.

Also, those that approve grants like to see community commitment. It was the brainchild of the Friends of 5AW and LFPSF to embrace the idea of a 10% worthy fundraising goal to help increase future chances of grant approval and priority in funding cycles. This 10% goal was met with much enthusiasm from the residents, but continued efforts would be good.

Besides the purchase price, other funds will be needed for site restoration and to create public access.

The city council approved a little over $11,000 budget item for the Watershed Company environmental consultants to perform a study to explore usage options and to determine the true value of the land.

Small streams run through 5AW
Photo courtesy 5AW
5AW contains many steep slopes and sensitive areas so city council will estimate such items as the creation of footpaths for public usage and the study will define the true market price by taking into account the city’s new Critical Areas and Tree Protection Ordinances.

The property was valued at $1.2 million over a year ago and this appraisal assumes the city’s now outdated ordinances.

Per Catherine Stanford, LFP Deputy Mayor, “The previous appraisal, I think it was about 15-20% of the land was developable, but they didn’t do the deeper dive or look at the current tree ordinances or critical areas.”

In addition, Julian Andersen, LFPSF, said “city council needs to be fiscally responsible for taking on this project and assure that it does not adversely affect the city’s current budget in anyway.” 

And since the city is considering a bridge loan to buy the property before a developer swoops down on it, they must also have an exit plan in place in case the funding cannot be fully accomplished. 

Thus, this exit plan, if funding is not met, could include the option of selling a portion of the property to a developer. This is not what anyone in LFP wants to happen, it is just the worst case scenario and protects the city’s budget.

Saturday walk in the woods July 8 10:30am
LFPSF and Friends of 5AW will continue to reach out to the community through their popular Saturday walk to 5 Acre Woods events (including one this Saturday, July 8th starting at Lake Forest Park Elementary parking lot at 10:30 a.m.) and through encouragement for residents to hold their own home gatherings with friends in which LFPSF will provide a 5 Acres project presentation.

A lot of good ideas are in the channels for getting this done! Please come get involved in any way you can!

LFP resident Jean Monce Bryant wrote a poem that she read to city council on June 29th. A stanza from that poem reads “Seattle is a changing, Lake Forest Park is too, But Magic still abounds in here, Let’s see what we can do.” More of the poem can be found here in this edition.

For more 5 Acre information visit the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation website


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