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Williams Property up for transfer
The city and Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District have begun their joint mission to transfer 22 properties from the city to the park district.
The first park being discussed is one of the largest: the Williams Property, which is a 3.81-acre parcel located north of Williams Lane and bordering Manzanita Bay.
The city paid 1.7 million in the form of a councilmanic bond, which is a bond drawn from current tax revenue, for the property in December 2007. The decision was a controversial one, passing the council by a 4-3 vote that October.
Williams is the first park to be transferred because the park district and the city have been able to receive a grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office for nearly $1 million on the property. But, for the grant to be awarded, the possession of the park has to be transferred to the park district from the city, or there must be proof that a transfer is imminent.
According to a resolution the city is considering, the park district will send the city $600,000 of the $1 million grant. The park district will keep $300,000 to make up for funds owed to the park district by the city for its part of resurfacing the Battle Point Park soccer fields, said Terry Lande, the district’s executive director. The district will keep the remaining funds to deal with administrative costs, Lande said.
The dollar figures and the hasty nature of the transfer has made some members of the City Council uncomfortable.
“This doesn’t feel good,” Councilor Kim Brackett said at the council’s Monday meeting. “This is not what the community was told, not what the council voted on.”
Brackett went on to state that the city is giving away a $1.7 million property for $600,000.
Councilor Debbie Vancil echoed Brackett’s statements.
“It appears that because the city is in dire economic straits, we are transferring this property earlier than we anticipated,” Vancil said.
Other councilors saw no issue with terms of the property transfer.
“This is just part of the city getting out of the park business and letting go of those lands that are intended for park use,” said Kjell Stoknes, who originally voted against purchasing the property in 2007.
Vancil voiced concern that the city will give up the property before it has a chance to pay off the $1.7 million over a five-year period. Had the council been unable to pay back the bonds in the five-year window, it could sell the property at market value. Should the property be transferred, Vancil said, that option would be gone.
The city has yet to pay back any of the bond money, Konkel said.
When the property was purchased, the council planned to pay it back through the sale of $850,000 in surplus property and proceeds from grants. In that situation, the city would be only $300,000 short in grant money for that portion of repayment.
With a transfer to the park district, the city will still receive grant funding on the shoreline property.
Written into the resolution to transfer the park is a condition that the city shall receive 90 percent of grant funds going forward. The council voted to amend the language to add a condition that the park district must continue to apply for grants.
A decision on the transfer was delayed Monday night because of a packed agenda at the council meeting, and the topic will be picked up again at the council’s Dec. 2 meeting.
Williams is one of the largest and most valuable properties to be transferred to the park district.
Many of the parcels recommended for transfer would expand existing district parks.
Three Meigs Farm properties (Lovell, Lowery and Salter) would expand Meigs Park by 30 acres to the south. The park district’s holdings at Gazzam Lake would be expanded with the addition of the 3.32-acre Blossom property to the east. A cluster of small parcels around the Schel-Chelb Estuary would also be transferred, providing a trail link from Gazzam to the Lynwood Center waterfront.
Excluded from the transfers are Pritchard, Waterfront and Strawberry Plant Parks.
Lande hopes that most of the properties can be lumped into one deed in order finish the transfer as quickly as possible, but it really depends on the city’s timeline.
“We’d like to move along as soon as we can, but we understand the city has to do its thing,” he said.
Lande said the park district won’t be adding much to any of the parks, that they were all designated for passive use. The park district would like to add some trails to a few of the parks, but that is the majority of it.
Though the park district will soon be taking on these new parks, Lande said the acquisitions will not stretch the district thin, Lande said.
“It will be putting a lot more benefit on the park district,” he said. “We’ve got the people power.”