News

Council agrees to become landlords

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

The city of Enumclaw finds itself in the unwanted position of landlord, the new owner of a two-story, two-building apartment complex.

It wasn't something the city wanted, but was grudgingly accepted as a necessary evil if progress was to be made on expansion and upgrading of the municipal sewage treatment plant.

The planned improvements to the existing facility along state Route 410 meant encroaching onto property directly north of the plant. That parcel of land is owned by Villa Vista LLC, which ultimately gave the city an all-or-nothing proposal: feeling the business would be compromised by selling just a portion of the adjacent land, Villa Vista asked the city to purchase the entire holding - land, two apartment buildings, parking lot, everything.

The city went along and the parties agreed last year that a sale would be consummated. Each side had an appraisal done and, last week, members of the City Council unanimously authorized Mayor John Wise to complete the purchase agreement. The city will pay slightly more than $3.6 million, but the price could climb by $233,000 in the next three months.

The city's appraisal had come in at $2.86 million, or $983,000 less than the figure obtained by the seller. The difference was primarily due to wetlands, according to City Administrator Mark Bauer. The city has maintained approximately 3.5 acres are unusable as an identified wetland, while the sellers argue there are no wetlands on the property and, if there are, they were created by the city.

The city agreed to add $750,000 to its appraisal and, additionally, pay another $233,000 if the owners can convince the Army Corps of Engineers a portion of the ground should not be considered wetlands. The owners have 90 days to get that determination, Bauer said.

The city is not counting on the Corps of Engineers changing its mind. “It's an uphill challenge for them (the owners) to get the designation reversed,” Bauer said.

If that were to occur, however, the city could bypass the wetland mitigation process it has been planning, thus knocking an estimated $1 million off the cost of the project.

When city officials first realized they might become owners of the apartment complex, they made it clear there was no desire to hold onto the property. That stance hasn't changed, Bauer said.

“We have interest from several buyers,” he said, adding the city must declare the property surplus before putting it up for sale.

Bauer estimates it will take three months from the time it assumes ownership until the property can be sold. During that time, he hopes the current property manager will continue in charge. The only difference for tenants might be who they make monthly rent checks payable to; for a short time, Bauer said, rent could be made to the city of Enumclaw.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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