North Bend has made a purchase offer for a five-acre parcel of land, highlighted in yellow on this map, next to E.J. Roberts Park, but fundraising efforts have only two weeks to bring in almost $300,000. (Courtesy Image)

E.J. Roberts Park expansion project is running out of time

A five-acre parcel of land next to North Bend’s E.J. Roberts Park would be a dream come true for a partnership of the residents of the Silver Creek neighborhood, the city of North Bend and the Si View Metropolitan Parks District. That dream will slip away, though, if people can’t raise $300,000 to buy it in the next two weeks.

The land, directly East of, and roughly the same size and shape as E.J. Roberts Park, would nearly double the size of the park — if the partnership could afford to buy it. If not, it could be built up into a new 12-home neighborhood.

The parcel, owned by the estate of Ruth Anderson, is valued at about $430,000 by the King County Assessor. It was last listed for sale on Redfin June 22, at an asking price of $865,000.

“Everyone in the neighborhood would really love that property to just become an extension of the park, including myself,” said Leila Brett, a resident on NE 6th Street, who has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 the purchase the land.

Because she lived across the street from the home, Brett said she’s talked with the owner several times. She also contacted the city of North Bend and the Si View Metropolitan Park District about the possibility of buying the land to expand the park.

“This seemed like a no-brainer to me,” she said, and so she offered to lead a fundraiser.

Both the city of North Bend and Si View had informally agreed to pitch in $200,000 each to the purchase effort, North Bend City Administrator Londi Lindell said, which, combined with the $100,000 from Brett’s campaign, could be enough to purchase the land — if the estate would take a lower price.

Brett noted that much of her neighborhood, including the Anderson parcel across the street from her home, is still on septic systems, which is likely the reason that the property has been on the market and reduced from its original price of $1.25 million.

“If a developer were to purchase the property, they would have to put sewer all the way down the street,” she said, at significant expense.

Several developers had been looking at the site over the past few months, Brett said, but none so far were pursuing development of the property. The city of North Bend has made a $500,000 purchase offer for the property, Lindell said, on the assumption that the other parties contribute their shares, “but our option to buy it goes away July 21.”

Realistically, the offer expires July 18, which is the last date the city council will meet to vote on the purchase before the offer expires. The council won’t approve the purchase, unless the funding is all in place.

However, Si View Parks has since dropped out of the partnership. Si View Parks Executive Director Travis Stombaugh said that after reviewing the proposal and looking at the site, the board determined that it was a desirable property, but it did not fit the needs of the district, as defined in its comprehensive plan, completed earlier this year.

“It didn’t really align with what the comp plan identified as acquisition sites for new parks,” Stombaugh said, but “we were supportive of the city going after it as a city park. It’s an economic benefit to the area when you have nice parks.”

Funding was another concern, since the district recently gave $300,000 to buy North Bend’s new 31-acre park parcel on Rattlesnake Mountain, and the E.J. Roberts land would have been an unbudgeted purchase.

The city has committed to its share of the funding, which would come from a loan against the city’s real-estate excise tax fund, to be paid off by parks impact fees to be collected on developments in the next several years. The loan could delay funding for other city projects, including the planned new city hall, Lindell said, but “The council is wanting to preserve land when they can and protect neighbors… that’s very important to them.”

That leaves a funding gap of $200,000, plus the shortfall from Brett’s campaign which has so far raised only about $6,000. The city won’t be able to increase its own contribution, leaving the community to raise the almost $295,000 by July 18.

Another deadline is also looming for Brett, July 13.

“The only reason for that day is I don’t want to withdraw those funds,” she said.

GoFundMe is not legally allowed to hold money for longer than 30 days, she explained, so July 13 is the date she will need to either withdraw some of the funds committed, or cancel the campaign and refund every contributor’s donation.

The website assured her that everyone could be reimbursed, even if she withdrew some funds and later cancelled the campaign, but said it would be easier to do if the funds hadn’t been touched.

“I’m hoping to know if we’re going to fail by that date,” she said, so she’ll know how to proceed.

Public input: Should North Bend establish a parks-buying fund? | Sidebar

Citizens are encouraged to attend the Tuesday, July 18 meeting of the North Bend City Council, for a discussion on building a parks-purchasing budget.

The discussion was prompted by the city’s recent efforts to buy the five-acre Anderson parcel adjacent to E.J. Roberts Park, said City Administrator Londi Lindell.

The goal of the meeting will be to answer the question, “Would the citizens like to have a war chest to buy land to keep it from being developed?” Lindell said. “And if that’s what they want to have, then let’s figure out a way to do it.”

North Bend residents have taken public stances against several recent developments, calling instead for the creation of parks on those sites.

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