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Buckley land lease gets public airing

The city of Buckley hosted a public hearing Dec. 9 to unveil its proposed plan to eventually enter into a half-century land lease agreement with the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, involving a 138-acre agricultural parcel on the grounds of Rainier School.

The hearing was slated so the city could take input from citizens regarding the potential for such a move by Buckley, which is scheduled to pay a total of $20,274 per year for the main, northeast and northwest areas of the property.

Buckley residents Calvin Bush and Marvin Sundstrom voiced their concerns with the lease agreement. While Sundstrom wondered aloud where the money was going to come from annually and who would be funding the maintenance of the property, Bush appeared more concerned with the possibility of the city committing to a long-term lease and making improvements to the land, only to have the state back out after the upgrades had been bankrolled by Buckley or organizations subleasing from the city. Bush also questioned if leasing the property was economically viable.

The proposed lease agreement clearly stipulates that either DSHS or the city may terminate the agreement by giving the other party’s contract manager one year’s prior written notice.

Other queries by the public asked if citizens could purchase the land from DSHS and if a baseball complex could be built on the land.

City Administrator David Schmidt read a release stating that DSHS was not given the option by the state of selling the land, but instead leasing it and having all of the proceeds going into a trust fund that can only be spent on helping people with developmental disabilities find employment or locate family support services.

Another certainty, according to Schmidt, is that the land is not to be used for commercial use.

“The first five years of the 50-year lease would be spent evaluating and studying what would be the best use of the land, but while we are researching that, we would be using the property to possibly set up an animal control compound as well as store heavy equipment and landscaping materials, with the written approval of DSHS, of course,” Schmidt said. He noted that the city hopes to create a long term vision of what the use of that property should be.

Schmidt went on to say that after the five-year evaluation schedule, possible uses of the property might include scenic trails, jogging and biking paths in addition to sports or recreation complexes and other noncommercial interests.

Reach John Leggett at jleggett@courierherald.com or 360-802-8207.

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