No houses for Tall Chiefs: County plans to return former golf course property to farming

A proposed 18-home development near Fall City was stopped recently, by the sale of the 191-acre site. King County recently purchased the 191-acre former Tall Chiefs Golf Course, and intends to restore much of the land to the county's Agricultural Production District.

“Saving this fertile land for farming will create more jobs for rural residents, support a more robust local food supply, and ensure an even stronger wall against sprawl,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, who announced the $4.5 million acquisition this week.

Tall Chiefs had been one of the Valley's first dairy farms, operating from the early 1900s to the 1950s, when the golf course was built. The golf course operated until 2009, and owner John Tomlinson later began pursuing plans to create a unique community on the property, bringing families and farming together. Preliminary plans called for development of only 22 acres for the 18 homes, with the remainder of the site planned as open space, small farming plots for each family, and 43 acres of farmland to be leased to another Valley farmer.

Flooding concerns and opposition from farmers downstream were raised while the King County Council considered the project, but it was approved in a split vote last July.

The land was purchased with Conservation Futures Tax funding, and protected from future development through the county's Transfer of Development Rights program. The Tall Chiefs property is part of a larger TDR deal transferring 800 density credits, worth $18 million, from roughly 2,000 acres of farmland and 23,000 acres of forest, to the South Lake Union area.

Another Snoqualmie Valley Farm was protected through the TDR program last year, when Jubilee Farm owners Erick and Wendy Haakenson sold their property's development rights for $340,000.

King County has not yet selected the farmer or farmers who will work the former Tall Chiefs land.

"We don't know who will farm it yet," said King County Councilwoman for District 3 Kathy Lambert. "I know that some of the local farmers have expressed interest."

The proposed farming community is no longer a possibility.

"That was a one of a kind opportunity to do a joint agriculture and residential development," said project consultant Peter Hayes, adding that he was still excited that much of the land would still be used for farming. "I think it's great for the Valley."


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