New Strategy to Save Tollgate Farm (WA)
NORTH BEND, WASHINGTON, 10/18/02 – Months of campaigning to save 50 acres of precious land on the historic Tollgate Farm property seemed to come to a bitter close on September 19 when it became clear the bond measure needed to purchase the property was failing at the polls. But thanks to an unexpected gift and subsequent restructuring of the proposed purchase, the land will be transferred to the City of North Bend and King County and conserved forever.
The $3.5 million levy to save Tollgate Farm on September 18th’s ballot in North Bend needed a 60% approval rate in order to pass. It received 57%. After the vote, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), the nonprofit land conservation agency working with North Bend, King County and the Tollgate landowners, received a pledge for a private donation from an anonymous supporter dedicated to helping save the historic property. In addition, North Bend received final approval for a $750,000 grant from the Conservation Futures Program further assuring city leaders that a purchase would be possible. With the additional resources, TPL was able to renegotiate a purchase price with the landowners, lowering the total cost for the city so that the North Bend City Council could afford to appropriate general obligation bonds to buy the property.
“While it was frustrating to see the September levy fail by such a small margin, it was clear that the people of North Bend wanted to save Tollgate Farm. As the mayor of this wonderful community, it is my responsibility to act upon the wishes of the people I serve and I am delighted that we were able to make that happen with this special piece of land,” stated North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson.
King County Executive Ron Sims commented, “I have advocated for the preservation of Tollgate Farm from the beginning; it has been an immense collaborative effort that truly represents the regional significance, not to mention the critical wildlife and historical importance, that the property represents.”
King County has already spent about $2.1 million on a portion of the property and will contribute an additional $2.9 toward the purchase.
North Bend City Council is expected to approve the overall transaction and appropriation of general obligation funds to secure the acquisition of the Tollgate Farm meadow. If approved, the city will not need to have a second Tollgate levy on November’s ballot.
“With the overwhelming majority of the voters supporting the preservation of Tollgate and a revised funding solution presented by TPL, approval of city financed bonds to save Tollgate is a slam dunk,” remarked North Bend City Council Member Mark Sollitto.
Roger Hoesterey, TPL Northwest regional director said, “Had it not been for the generous private donation we received after the bond failed, we would not have been able to renegotiate an agreement that was acceptable to the landowners and financially feasible for North Bend. We’re in the business of helping communities conserve land that is dear to them; sometimes it takes more than determination to make that happen.”
The transaction, if approved, is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
The Trust for Public Land is a private, nonprofit land conservation organization that works across the nation to conserve land for people. Founded in 1972, TPL specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, public finance and law to protect land for public use. Working with private landowners, communities and government agencies, TPL has helped protect more than 1,400 special places nationwide for people to enjoy as parks, playgrounds, community gardens, historic landmarks and wilderness lands. For more information about TPL’s work in Washington and the Northwest, please visit www.tpl.org or call (206) 587-2447.