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City of Snoqualmie acquires tree farm

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The Candy Cane Tree Farm on Park Street - long a source of

contention between its owners, Don and Lynn Douglass, and the

city of Snoqualmie - finally met its fate late last Wednesday

afternoon.

In a surprise development, the city and the Douglasses finally

reached an agreement on the sale of the property. The action

ended the threat of condemnation proceedings for the land and

apparently ended a longstanding controversy over the farm's

future ownership and use.

In separate interviews, Don Douglass and City Administrator

Kim Wilde stated the Douglasses will receive $310,000 for their

property. They will also retain the right to harvest trees from

it for two more seasons.

"It hasn't closed yet, but we do have a signed purchase

and sale agreement," said Wilde last Thursday. "We're

really excited. We think we've reached a fair agreement and

anticipate constructing a park in 2001.

"We anticipate building three baseball fields on the site

and a youth football field, which could also be used for younger

soccer players. It will be designed in a way that it could host

tournaments and raise revenues for the parks department.

"We think it's really one of the few sites in the city

limits in which to build a recreation complex," Wilde

continued. "It's nice and level and has all the topographic

characteristics you'd want in a site."

Don Douglass, who bought the 20-acre property in 1985 for

$110,000, was a little less sanguine when contacted Friday. He

stressed that he and his wife were happy with the prospect of

having a place for local youth, but still felt they hadn't

received full value for their business site.

"One thing, first of all, we're very happy the kids will

have a good park for productive pursuits," he stated,

"rather than hanging around convenience store parking lots.

They need it.

"However, it sort of cut our business in two; suddenly we

have half a business. We told the city about that, and they gave

us two years' cutting rights on it."

The worth of the property was the primary sticking point

between the two parties and ultimately led to the threat of

condemnation by the city under eminent domain. Under that

practice cities are able to legally acquire land that property

owners are unwilling to sell through condemnation.

The Candy Cane Tree Farm was initially identified as a

potential park site in the city's Open Spaces, Parks and

Recreation Comprehensive Plan. After initial negotiations, the

topic was pulled from the council's May 10 meeting agenda and

condemnation procedures were initiated.

The Douglasses maintain they were never informed by city

officials that their land was under consideration for

condemnation.

The dispute then settled into a "battle of

appraisals," with each side getting differing figures for

the value of the land. The property owners stated their property

was a developed business, and not "raw land," and

therefore worth more than what the city was offering. City

Administrator Wilde and City Clerk Jodi Warren advised they had a

fair appraisal, but it was not a public document, and therefore

not subject to public release.

"We valued the business - as far as we're concerned - at

about $515,000," said Douglass. "The city had one that

valued it as raw land - and it wasn't raw land, it was a business

- and they came up with about $244,000. We had one done that came

up with $370,000, and that was based on the fact it was a

business."

"The city attorney ranted and raved, saying it was

unrealistic, `all we want to do is buy some raw land.'

Weyerhaeuser had their finger in it too, but I won't go into

that."

Reportedly, the Douglasses offered the land to Weyerhaeuser

for $675,000.

"We had three offers from private parties to buy that

farm," Douglass continued, "but since the city had

threatened condemnation, we were unable to consider those offers.

They were all more than the city was willing to pay us.

"It would've gotten dragged into court, so we succeeded

in negotiating a price. We would have liked the $370,000, but

that's not the way it went."

For the city, nailing down the purchase of the property

finally settles the issue of the two parks required by the

Snoqualmie Ridge agreement. Wilde added the Ridge's developers

will provide a large part of the funds for the new sports

complex, including some of the facilities they were required to

build.

"We felt this was an opportunity to get some of the

facilities that were to be built down here, in historic

Snoqualmie," he said. "This is the culmination of

something we've worked on for a long time. For the first time,

we'll have our own recreational facilities and fields.

"We need to give credit to the parks board," Wilde

concluded. "They looked at several options, looked at

several ideas, and approved these plans. They deserve a lot of

credit, as does the city council.

"It's really great we can do this in a way where we don't

have to do a condemnation."

As for the Douglasses, they will retain their other tree farm,

south of I-90 off exit 34, which Don Douglass referred to as

their "home farm." Yet, he pointed out another

repercussion of the sale.

"We hire - in season - local young people from the high

school," he commented. "We treat them real good, and we

don't have to beg for their help. Since we treat them fair and

allow them to get good tips and a bonus each year, we have more

people wanting to work for us than we have a need for.

"For the most part, it's their first real job,"

Douglass continued. "We take a real responsible position in

teaching them responsibility, in how to work and how to serve the

public.

"That opportunity will go away for Snoqualmie, but it

will continue to exist on our other property."

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