Buchan Homes Buys Large Farm On May Valley
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Issaquah School Board authorizes sale of 80 acres of land on May Valley Road to Bellevue developer
The Issaquah School Board recently authorized the sale of 80 acres of land for $4.16 million to Bellevue developer William E. Buchan Inc. (http://www.buchanhomes.com/buchan/)
The land, known as the Winterbrook Farm, is at 21207 SE May Valley Road, directly east of the Sunset Valley Farms development and across the road from the Squak Mountain trailhead parking area. It was purchased in 2006 for $3.33 million with the intent of building a future elementary and middle school as growth needs dictated.
However, those plans were scuttled when King County made changes to its Growth Management Act.
“Following a change of the interpretation of the Growth Management Actand actions taken by King County and Puget Sound Regional Council, the land has been deemed not appropriate to put schools on,” chief of finance and operations Jake Kuper explained to board members.
Kuper did not return a message seeking details on how the “change of the interpretation of the Growth Management Act” applied to the Winterbrook Farm property.
Superintendent Ron Thiele thought it was an important point the school district did the right thing in 2006 attempting to bank land for future school growth.
“That was at a time when we were able to work with King County when we had property close to or adjacent the growth-management line, much like they worked with us with Cascade Middle School which is outside the growth-management line,” he said. “But there’s been a change of heart in King County. It became apparent to me there still needs to be work done with the Growth Management Act. As I said, I’m going to continue that work … on the need for future schools in this region. I believe there are 27 school district across this state impacted by issues related to the Growth Management Act.”
Board president Suzanne Weaver said this issue often arises in bond committee discussions.
“We’re often asked by bond committees, why don’t we bank land? Why don’t we buy land in anticipation of future growth? And this is an instance where we did the right thing at the time. But the rules changed,” Weaver said. “But we are selling for a profit and there’s no cost to the taxpayer.”
Kuper confirmed the proceeds from the sale will go back into the capital projects budget and continue to fund future projects, and can even possibly be used for the purchase of future lands.
Director Marnie Maraldo expressed her frustration at being helpless in the wake of the rules changes by King County.
“We had made plans, we knew there was going to be growth in our district and needed land and a facility at some point,” she said. “But out of all of that, we’re selling this to the benefit of our tax-paying base. I appreciate they continue to support bonds that allow us to do the work and do the buildings we do. This is a positive for our schools and for the community as a whole.”
This article first appeared in The Issaquah Press ( www.IssaquahPress.com)