This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
A proposed deal for divvying up the Washington State University experimental forest between the City of Bonney Lake and private development looks like one the city shouldn’t pass up.
Today the 147-acre forest is closed to the public and generates no tax revenue. But if the City Council agrees next Tuesday to the rezone needed to implement the proposed development agreement, Bonney Lake would get: 47 acres for a much-needed park and site for a YMCA, tax revenue from medical offices and 600 new homes, improvements to 36 intersections to offset traffic impacts of those new homes, a north-south connection between Highway 410 and South Prairie Road, and jobs related to building all those projects.
Some park advocates might think the city should get more than 47 acres. But 47 acres is a lot better than none – which is what they’ve had since WSU closed the forest to public use 3½ years ago due to problems with crime and homeless camps. And it’s about 17 acres more than the developer, Quadrant Corp., had on the table in 2005.
The Bonney Lake Planning Commission, headed by councilman-elect Randy McKibbin, has already given its blessing to the proposal. Mayor Neil Johnson is enthusiastic about the prospects of the city acquiring so much park land and says it’s “the best we are going to get.”
During the last election for City Council, several candidates cited the need to expand Bonney Lake’s parks, not only for passive recreation like walking and birdwatching but also for more active uses such as soccer. This proposal goes a long way toward doing just that – it would increase the city’s park and open space acreage by about 50 percent – and have other recreational benefits, too. The YMCA has been wanting to put a center in Bonney Lake but needed land. The city plans to set aside 5.4 acres of its 47 for either a YMCA or a community recreation center.
The increased tax revenue from residential and commercial development on the site is no small matter, either. But that development should be done with an eye toward preserving as many of the trees as feasible.
Bonney Lake residents have loved having the green space benefit of the WSU forest, and it would be wise of Quadrant to develop the land in a way that helps perpetuate as much of that as it can.