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Wyckoff appraisal remains under wraps

The “magic number” that may determine the fate of the Wyckoff Superfund site and the city’s hopes to acquire it remains a secret, as appraiser Anthony Gibbons declined to make his conclusions public at a meeting with the Wyckoff Acquisition Task Force Thursday.

Citing the need to discuss the sensitive results of the appraisal with Wyckoff trustee Dan Silver, the group adjourned to executive session to discuss the latest projected price tag for the 55-acre property.

Gibbons, who was contracted jointly by Silver and the task force to conduct the appraisal, acknowledged that previous valuations of the property had been “extraordinary,” and that the development potential of the property lies in the already clean, upland areas of the property.

“We don’t see any significant value generated out of the Point,” he said.

Gibbons’ remarks bolstered initial reports that the appraisal will be significantly lower than those previously conducted. “Prior valuations assumed a level of development readiness that is simply not there,” said Gibbons.

“And they assumed no Superfund site.”

Armed with the as-yet-undisclosed valuation, the task force will submit a proposal for the public acquisition and use of the property to area legislators by mid-March.

A first draft of the proposal, which estimated the value of the property at $8 million, requests $7 million in Congressional appropriations, with remaining $1 million to come from the community – possibly drawing on monies from the open space levy passed by Bainbridge voters last November.

The task force has yet to make such a request to the Open Space Committee, said committee member Dave Shorett.

Were the city to purchase the Wyckoff property and turn it into a park and memorial, as has been proposed, it would confront many of the issues facing commercial developers of the site.

Travis Shaw, the Core of Engineers’ site manager for the Wyckoff project, confirmed that cleanup efforts will have a decades-long impact on the usability and accessibility of the property.

In addition to the “low-level” noise, odor and traffic created by cleanup efforts, the steam-injection treatment method currently being tested at the site will raise the ground temperature in the treatment area for up to two years after reclamation is completed.

Shaw estimated that it would take 15 years to complete cleanup of the site.

That figure assumes the experimental method is successful and that funding to expand the program can be secured from the cash-strapped Superfund – both points of uncertainty.

Shaw also cautioned that EPA generally does not allow public access to any area of an active Superfund site. “That’s why we had to use hazardous waste workers instead of Boy Scouts to do the (vegetation) buffer planting,” he said.

The task force is also faced with to address the fears of the Bill Point Homeowners Association, which remained concerned that the cleanup and possible development on the site will reduce views or increase noise in their nearby neighborhood.

“Continuation of Wyckoff’s ‘good neighbor’ practices of controlling tree and and vegetation growth to not interfere with views presently enjoyed from Bill Point lots should be an important consideration in any park proposal,” the Association said in a letter submitted to the committee Feb. 21.

The neighborhood also affirmed its interest in acquiring the piece of the Wyckoff property adjacent to the neighborhood should the parcel be sold for development.

Although Gibbons is scheduled to discuss the appraisal with the Wyckoff trustee Monday, neither he nor task force chair Christine Nasser specified a date for the public release of the figure.

“We hope to have something more to tell you after our task force meeting Thursday,” Nasser said.

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