Olympia wants to buy 75 acres for future park near Ken Lake

Olympia has moved forward with a plan to buy 75 acres for a future park on the city’s west side.

The Olympia City Council unanimously approved an option Tuesday to purchase the Kaiser Heights property. The wooded site is located southwest of Ken Lake between Kaiser Road and Lakemoor Drive.

Property owner Wonderland Holdings has indicated an interest in selling the site to Olympia for $1.1 million.

Under the agreement, the city will pay $150,000 for the option and will need to pay another $150,000 by the end of January 2016 if it wants to extend the option to Oct. 1, 2016. The city would have until that date to pay the remainder of the balance. Otherwise, the property will return to the sellers. According to the contract, option payments are non-refundable if the city fails to make the payment and lets the option expire.

Parks director Paul Simmons reiterated that Tuesday’s approval only secures an option to buy the property. Simmons said the city will need to identify funding sources through state grants and preservation programs.

Aside from public demand for more park space, Simmons also noted a sense of urgency in buying the Kaiser Heights property, which has attracted interest from housing developers and a timber company.

The property has been considered for development since at least 2006, when a Seattle-based developer initially proposed a 300-home subdivision.

The Lakemoor Community Club, which serves as the neighborhood association for the adjacent Ken Lake neighborhood, had previously expressed concern that a subdivision could create problems with flooding and stormwater retention.

“This is a big deal,” Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said Tuesday of the purchase option. “It resolves a problem and a challenge that’s been there for a long time.”

A handful of Ken Lake area residents spoke in favor of the purchase option at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This would make a fine addition to the city park system if it works out that it can be purchased in the future,” said Jim Nieland, noting that the Kaiser Heights property would be the first city park south of U.S. 101. “This is an opportunity to start chipping away at that need.”

The announcement comes on the heels of another recently approved option to buy 74 acres for park space in southeast Olympia. Known as the Trillium property, the site is located next to LBA Park. The city has until June 30, 2016, to buy the land for $5 million.

To help generate money for park acquisition, the city is asking voters to approve the formation of a Metropolitan Park District in the November general election. If approved, the district would charge taxpayers 54 cents per $1,000 of assessed property values and ultimately bring in about $3 million a year.