Coalition urges Olympia to save wooded area from development

ahobbs@theolympian.comApril 17, 2014 

The undeveloped area around LBA Park is seen in this map. A coalition of residents wants to protect the highlighted areas from development.

STAFF MAP — The Olympian

Several residents want Olympia to buy a chunk of urban forest and turn it into a park.

The biggest obstacle, however, is money.

The LBA Woods Park Coalition is trying to prevent nearly 150 wooded acres in southeast Olympia from becoming two subdivisions. The parcels border the east and south sides of LBA Park, 3333 Morse-Merryman Road.

The coalition is focusing on the southern parcel, known as Bentridge. Supporters say time is running out for Olympia to buy the 72-acre Bentridge property and save it from development.

Dave Prutzman owns the Bentridge property, which is listed at $6.5 million. Developers from Japan, Bellevue and Portland have recently expressed interest in the site, he said. Preliminary zoning and permits have already been approved by the city.

“We have been actively marketing it,” Prutzman told The Olympian. “We’re waiting for someone to come forth.”

The coalition has circulated a petition that has garnered more than 1,400 signatures. Dozens of people attended Tuesday night’s Olympia City Council meeting to show support for the coalition’s goal, which is seen by many as an investment that will benefit future generations.

Some residents asked the city to conduct a feasibility study for buying the land, while cross country runners from Olympia High School even expressed support for the urban forest’s trail system. Other residents at Tuesday’s council meeting cited the city’s comprehensive plan, which says the acquisition of park land is a priority for Olympia.

“Now is the time for action,” said Eric Bowman, who lives at Boulevard and Karen Frasier roads, on the urgency to preserve the woods. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

Olympia lacks $6.5 million to acquire the property, said City Manager Steve Hall. Grants are competitive, he said, and the city already has major park projects on tap at Percival Landing and the isthmus property. Last year, the city experienced a budget shortfall of about $330,000 just for parks maintenance, Hall said.

“We’re not going to buy a piece of land (like Bentridge) just by looking under the couch cushions,” Hall said Tuesday. “In order to get real money, we’d have to go to the voters.”

Mayor Stephen Buxbaum echoed that sentiment, and said the city has “lots of unmet expectations” from a 3 percent utility tax increase that voters had approved in 2004 to help fund parks.

“We have an extraordinary appetite for park land. We are living in a time of extraordinarily scarce resources,” Buxbaum said Tuesday. “The city does not have the money to maintain what we have at the moment.”

The Bentridge property is zoned for 501 residential units in the form of single- and multi-family housing. The nearby Trillium property, which borders LBA Park to the east, measures 79 acres and is also slated for a housing development with a zoning of four to eight residential units per acre. No construction date has been set.

Learn more

To learn more about the LBA Woods Park Coalition, visit www.lbawoodspark.org

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or ahobbs@theolympian.com

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