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City may finish East Monroe saga by tying in with nonprofit group

MONROE — A deal to secure the East Monroe site involving a conservation nonprofit, which the City Council is scheduled to vote on this week, would permanently preserve the site as open space possibly as soon as Thanksgiving. The council’s Tuesday, Aug. 28 vote came after press time.
The deal is essentially a bridge loan with Forterra, a Seattle nonprofit with a mission to preserve the outdoors.
The East Monroe site is owned by Heritage Baptist Fellowship Church’s Pastor Tom Minnick, and he is a willing seller.
In grant documents, the purchase price is being listed for $2 million. Forterra would negotiate the final price.
The deal would have Forterra buy the property, and the city would be committed to pay back Forterra by 2021 or the land goes back onto the open market. The city’s reimbursement plan uses state and federal grants.
The city received confirmation last week it secured one of those grants, for $500,000 from the Snohomish County Conservation Futures Fund, according to city administrator Deborah Knight.
The city is aiming to collect an additional $1 million from state Recreation and Conservation Office grants. If successful, this gives the city $1.5 million.
Knight said in an interview that the city would seek grants and other funding for the remaining $500,000.
No city dollars would pay for the property, Knight said.
At the council meeting, Knight advised council members that “you have enough in your REET (Real Estate Excise Taxes)” funds to make an acquisition if necessary. REET is earned from a fee on general real estate transactions in the city.
Contracting with Forterra will cost the city a $10,000 service fee plus up to $10,000 in closing costs, and the city would pay loan interest to Forterra until Monroe buys the land outright, which adds up to approximately $110,000 in interest at the low end.
City Council members last week were receptive to the idea, but a few had reservations brecause the grants aren’t all nailed down. There was consensus, though, to put the issue to rest.
Ultimately, the more than a decade-long East Monroe saga attempting to rezone 43 acres of farmland along U.S. 2 as commercial land appears to be reaching its end without changing the zoning.
Forterra became interested in acquiring the property while working with the city to write the grants, Knight said.
The nonprofit was founded as the Cascade Land Conservancy in 1989 and says it has conserved 250,000 acres so far. It also just picked up $10 million in venture capital funding toward its mission.



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