Overpriced Stocker property deal raises questions
SNOHOMISH - The Snohomish County Council approved investing almost $25 million toward preserving parks and open space last week.
The money will assist Mukilteo’s push to acquire the last privately held piece of Japanese Gulch, bankroll long-sought open space on the Snohomish River and give $5 million to extend the Centennial Trail south to King County along the Eastside Rail Corridor between Snohomish and Woodinville.
The grants come from the Snohomish County Conservation Futures Fund, which gets its money from a small sliver of property tax revenue that adds up to millions of dollars.
The Snohomish River property purchase price is raising eyebrows.
The Snohomish River project gives the city of Snohomish $500,000 to buy Ed Stocker’s riverfront farmland. The purchase is raising questions, but Snohomish city leaders emphasize the grant gives them the best opportunity they have to add park space.
The city wants to use the 20 acres for a new boat launch and connect trails, including the Centennial Trail, on the property. County officials have pursued this property for two decades, county parks director Tom Teigen said last week.
“It’s one of the few places in Snohomish County we can have five trails converging on this town and this piece of property is the way to make them all work together,” Snohomish project manager Ann Stanton said.
Officials admit, though, the $500,000 price is way over valued.
Appraisers valued the property between $7,000 and $8,000 an acre, officials said, which at the high end would price the property at $160,000.
Stocker rejected the county’s offers near the appraised value and asked for more money each time, Teigen said.
“A real estate transaction is ultimately about a willing seller and a willing buyer and a negotiated price,” Teigen said, adding that the property has great public benefit.
Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine had concerns about the Stocker deal. The deal sounds like an illegal gifting of public funds, Marine said.
Marine’s city is cheering the County Council’s decision to give Mukilteo the cash it needs to make a serious offer on the last 98 acres of Japanese Gulch.
The $2.5 million grant for the gulch gives Mukilteo an accumulated $4.3 million.
Mukilteo will ask its City Council about making a purchase offer soon after an independent appraisal comes through, Marine said last week.
The appraisal is due to arrive by the end of the month and will have a big impact on the city’s purchase offer, he said.
The seller’s appraisal is at $6.3 million. The land is being held by a bankruptcy court, and Marine doesn’t think the court’s manager will sell for just $4.3 million.
The council will probably have to add money to make an offer, but it won’t have to float a bond, he said.
The County Council modified the list by diverting $1.5 million more to add trails along the 42-mile Eastside Rail Corridor instead of giving $1.7 million to acquire 170 acres around Storm Lake six miles north of Monroe.
The county parks department will try to acquire the Storm Lake property outside of using conservation futures funding, county deputy executive Mark Ericks said.
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