Council votes to condemn
April 30, 2009 · Updated 3:06 PM
Dennis Box, The Courier-Herald
The Bonney Lake City Council voted May 25 to purchase or condemn the property next to Allan Yorke Park owned by Schuur Brothers Construction.
Over the protest of Mayor Bob Young, ordinance 1033 passed by a 6-1 vote in favor of the condemnation process.
Council members Neil Johnson, Mark Hamilton, Phil DeLeo, Cheryle Noble, Dave King and Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman voted yes. Councilman Jim Rackley voted no.
The condemnation process involves a lawsuit where a city makes a claim on private property for the public use, paying fair market value.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a significant number of residents from the neighborhood spoke persuasively in favor of the council moving forward with the condemnation process.
"I urge you to vote to condemn the property," said Betty Erdahl, who lives near the park. "We don't have adequate space for parks."
Bill Schuur, president of Schuur Brothers Construction, was the lone voice in the crowd, speaking against the process.
"For the last 18 months we've been working with the city staff to develop this project," Schuur said. "This is like a punch in the stomach to our company."
After the ordinance passed, many of the council members noted the decision to condemn the property was difficult and not lightly taken.
"It was a tough decision, but an important decision to make," Johnson said. "We had to go down deep in our gut and figure it out. It was a one-time situation. When it is all said and done I think people will be happy with the decision."
Rackley wrestled with the cost and best value for the money and came down on the other side.
"This was a difficult vote," Rackley said. "It was not a good feeling, but I felt strongly this was a waste of money and intent. We have a responsibility to the whole city and this land is really going to be expensive."
The 12.55 acre parcel is located at 7405 West Lake Tapps Highway.
Schuur Brothers' plan is to develop the land for 64 townhouses and the company reports it is about two months from breaking ground on the project.
"I'm disappointed," Schuur said after the vote. "I thought the City Council could be persuaded to see things a little more in line with property rights and what is fair. I think they have their sights set on this being a park. But we're not stopping the process. I will continue to pursue my development. I wanted the Council to hear from me because it will have a devastating effect on our company."
Swatman said the action was the most significant the Council had made during his years in elected office.
"This is not just some piece of property," Swatman said. "This is a unique opportunity. The property owner doesn't want to sell and we had to go another route and we will pay fair market price."
The condemnation process will go to Pierce County Superior Court where a judge will decide if the city's claim - that the land is necessary for public use - is valid.
If the judge rules in favor of the city, a jury will decide the fair market value.
"Both sides will hire an appraiser," City Attorney Jim Dionne said. "That information will go to a jury. They will look at fair market value and part of the best use could be the profit Schuur Brothers could make on the property."
The price of the land to the city is a the wild card in the deck and has been estimated at more than $3 million.
Allan Yorke Park is Bonney Lake's largest park at 21.5 acres. There are two other parks in the city - Lake Bonney Park, 1.3 acres, and Ascent Park .02 acres.
Dennis Box can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org