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Williams property back on the table

The council asks for more time to craft the purchase of a new park on Manzanita Bay.

Though rejected by the City Council last week, a controversial deal that would have landed the city parkland on Manzanita Bay may not be dead after all.

Councilor Debbie Vancil on Wednesday moved to reconsider the issue – a motion that passed by a 4-3 vote – after announcing the owners of the property had agreed to give the city more time to craft a deal that’s more likely to be supported by council.

Councilors will discuss the matter at the Sept. 12 meeting. They won’t be approving or rejecting the prior deal; rather they will discuss whether it’s worth trying to pursue a new one. Vancil said a new deal, if there is one, would differ from the one already rejected.

“Council members were unhappy with a lot of the pieces involved,” she said. “I asked for more time, and now we can do our own due diligence.”

Councilmembers Bill Knobloch, Chris Snow and Kjell Stoknes opposed the idea of reconsidering the purchase.

“This council has a reputation for not making decisions and staying with them,” Snow said. “Here we are again reversing a decision we already made.”

The council last week also voted to reconsider a political sign ordinance it rejected in May.

The Williams clan, who haved owned and lived on the property for five generations, had previously hoped to close on the property this summer.

Developer Kelly Samson, who agreed to buy the entire property from the Williams clan and make a portion of it available to the city, also has agreed to extend the timeline, though it remains to be seen exactly how long the city has to strike a new deal.

Under the original plan, Samson’s portion of the land would have been developed as homes.

Paying for the park – at a cost of $1.65 million for 8.7 acres – was a major concern of some councilors and detractors in the community. Because the $8 million open space bond has been exhausted, funding for the purchase likely would come via councilmanic bonds, which aren’t subject to a public vote.

Vancil was among those worried about the expense, but said that with more time, the city might be able to come up with a package that works.

As possible funding sources, she cited grant money and land the city previously purchased as open space – with the intent of eventually selling it – that could be sold to help pay for the purchase.

Still, Vancil said, “we can’t continue to proceed as if we have open space bond money – we don’t.”

Also contentious were various restrictions to be placed on the land, including one that would have limited tree height on part of the parkland.

Some also felt access to the water was poor, and that the deal would have had the greatest benefit for Samson and residents of the planned residential development elsewhere on the land.

The extent to which those components might change won’t be decided until after next Wednesday.

“One step at a time,” said Open Space Commissioner Andy Maron. “We’re pleased the family agreed to give the city more time, and pleased the council is willing to take more time to look at it.”

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