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December 2015

Plans to convert a Bothell golf course to housing and other uses remain uncertain

Whether Wayne Golf Course in Bothell becomes the site of homes, an open space and habitat for salmon, or some combination of uses is unknown as land conservationists, developers and politicians continue negotiations.

In June, Joshua Freed, the city's mayor, along with representatives from Forterra (the conservation organization) and the investment group, announced an historic agreement to allow Forterra to purchase the 39-acre back nine of the golf course. Mayor Freed is a well-known homebuilder with ties to the prospective developers.

Forterra is interested in purchasing the entire property. Representatives of the "design-and-build nonprofit" say they hope to provide the community with an opportunity to "creatively structure a permanent preservation strategy to support a variety of publicly-accessible uses and habitat restoration actions."

Since the purchase agreement announcement in June, Forterra, the city, community organization OneBothell, plus state and county officials have been working to secure the land. Forterra has been trying to raise money to acquire it with the intent of eventually transferring ownership to the city, but subject to its own fundraising. 

A conservation easement limits development on 46 acres of the 50-acre front nine. Investors filed pre-application development plans with the city in late November, proposing to build 50 homes on the back nine. Both parcels went on the market in 2013, with the city given the first option to purchase it. That option has expired.

The 89-acre golf course includes nearly a mile of critical salmon habitat along the Sammamish River, along with vistas from the Burke-Gilman Trail, acres of woods, and an historic apple orchard and farmhouse.

Following reports of the latest filing by Freed's investment group to pursue development permits, he and Forterra declined comment but issued a statement indicating they were still "acting in good faith." Noting it is a voluntary transaction and that Forterra was fully aware of the scheduling of the pre-application meeting, the parties also stated, "It has always been understood between the parties that the ownership group would continue with its entitlement process as a backup plan in case our transaction didn't close."

The latest maneuvering has angered some citizens and preservationists who cite possible conflicts of interest. According to a report in The Seattle Times, OneBothell leaders had hoped the negotiations would swiftly conclude after the November elections when a slate of candidates strongly supportive of preserving the golf course and critical of the mayor's involvement won three seats on the seven-member city council. They take office in January.

Forterra describes itself as a regional leader for sustainability. During its 25-year history, the organization has permanently protected 238,000 acres of working lands, rivers, streams and forests.