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Email to the Editor: County Agreement Over White River Forest Needs Enumclaw Residents' Input

Enumclaw City Councilman Darrel Dickson encourages city residents to make their opinions known to King County officials as the ordinance authorizing the $11.1 million purchase of development rights heads to full County Council on April 29.

King County has proposed purchasing the Development Rights on 43,000 acres of land next to Enumclaw from Hancock Forest Management for $11.1 million.

A preservation agreement would restrict development on 43,000 acres of the White River Forest east of Enumclaw.

The land is next to City limits on Highway 410 to Greenwater.  This is the largest continuous land that has development rights in King County. Past Greenwater to Mount Rainier the land is owned by either the Department of Forestry or Parks and will not be developed.

If the proposal is approved, our city will be limited in our ability to grow in similar ways as communities like North Bend or Snoqualmie. This proposed conservation easement would be recorded against the land.  

Prior to January 2012 residents of King County were able to access the Hancock Forest property for recreational purposes for free.  Beginning January 2012 Hancock started to require a fee to use the land for recreational uses.  

I spoke with John Davis of Hancock Forest Management on Monday, March 25. Davis said there is a signed contract. The contract is subject to the approval of the County Council.

Davis said the residents of King County would continue to be charged fees to use the property for recreational purposes after the deal closes.   

When King County purchased the development rights of the Thomas farm (150 acres) in Enumclaw city limits several years ago the county did not seek the city of Enumclaw’s approval. The sale of the development rights on the “Thomas Farm” has left a large hole that is undevelopable in our city.  The county should know our city's opinion prior to any of these types of transactions occurring.

King County's proposed purchase of the development rights on 43,000 acres from Hancock Forest Management will influence the future affordability of housing, and the quality of life of this community well into the future.   

The topic will be discussed in the budget committee of King County. The bill was introduced to council on March 25th.  The budget committee will have a hearing on the development rights purchase on April 2, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. No public testimony will be held at the hearing, letters will be reviewed.  The hearing will remain open until April 16th at which time the committee will send the matter to full council on April 29th at 1:30 p.m.  Public testimony will be allowed before the full council.  The hearing and the council both meet at 516 3rd Ave. 10th Floor, Seattle, Wa..  Dates and times may be subject to change so please double check.

The residents of Enumclaw and King County should seek to understand this transaction and how it impacts your family and posterity. Please contact councilman McDermott at 1-206-296-1008 or email Joe.McDermott@KingCounty.gov to share your opinion regarding this proposed transaction. Please include Reagan.dunn@kingcounty.gov  and DDickson@ci.enumclaw.wa.us in your email.

Editor's Note: Dickson introduced this issue at the Monday meeting of the Enumclaw City Council as well and it was headed into the community/economic development committee for further discussion. Click here to read more from that meeting.

Paul T. Jackson March 28, 2013 at 06:27 PM
It seems strange Hancock is asking for money to preserve forest which they only manage, not own. To understand the problems of investment in the land and its possible sale for aggressive development one needs to check the rest of the story here: https://safnet.org/publications/forestrysource/archive/1204_ownerships.cfm?printPage=1& or shortened URL http://goo.gl/I5uwp If Hancock continues to manage the area, then that area will be preserved for lumber and recreation. If the fund holding the land ends and sells it's assets, I have to wonder what happens to our buy-in for preservation.
Richard Elfers March 31, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Darrel, I've got mixed views on your opinion about buying development rights for the Hancock Property east of Enumclaw. I strongly favor King County buying up development rights because it's good for Enumclaw. We don't want to see a big residential community on the plateau above Enumclaw. It would damage the sense of community that all of us value. We'd have two parts of our town separated by geography, or worse, another residential area with no control over its development. Enumclaw's attractiveness is in part because we don't have urban sprawl. Allowing development on the upper plateau is a very bad idea. I do agree with you that the high rates Hancock proposes to charge to recreate in the area is price gouging. If they get development rights to keep the area natural, then they should also allow lower entry fees to allow the citizens of King County to enjoy some of the benefits of the preserved land.
Karen Jensen April 04, 2013 at 01:17 AM
Enumclaw will grow for better or worse. We need some land available on the east side of Enumclaw for future growth. Private land does not have to allow the public on their property. Pay or not.

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