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December 15, 1997

Opinion

Kaplan price seems too high

  The two adjacent articles on page 2 of the December 1st Woodinville Weekly offered insight into government standards. The top article stated a quandry because the City of Woodinville's C.O. Sorenson Complex appraisal (based on a new city regulatory ordinance that resulted in a significant devaluation of the recreational portions of Sorenson) was $1.4 million less than the Northshore School District's earlier appraisal upon which the current purchase agreement was based. The quandry was that "Both sides are constrained by state statute that says public property can't be bought or sold by public entities for more than fair market value. The lower article stated that the price paid for the Kaplan ag-zoned 17.79 acres ($750,000 paid by King County and $210,000 paid by the Northshore Youth Soccer Association) was OK because "A 1997 appraisal by the county's Office of Open Space pegs the property at $750,000." Yet the 1997 assessor's valuation for the Kaplan property--which is supposed to represent fair market value--is only $524,400. Does it sound as if the Office of Open Space appraisal was tailored to suit the target?
  
   Even the assessor's $524,400 appraisal--nearly $30,000 an acre--sounds high. The land is zoned Agricultural and has such fragile wetlands that the adjacent church was forced to spend a huge amount for a filtration system so church runoff wouldn't damage those wetlands. In fact, the Kaplan land has such a reputation for wetlands that oldtimers are wondering exactly how many sportsfields can be accommodated. Will Kaplan turn out to be the third local county purchase that is turned into preserved open space because of more-than-anticipated wetlands? (The first two are Mary Cash's farm on the Woodinville-Duvall Road, and the land on N.E. 165th that, after sportsfields were ruled out, was also ruled out as a library location.)
   Sincerely,
   Maxine Keesling