Northwest NEWS

November 30, 1998


Government should be dealing with real estate brokers

The King County Council's review of its purchase of the abandoned east Lake Sammamish railroad right-of-way from the non-profit Land Conservancy of Seattle-King County, for nearly double the $1.5 million the Conservancy paid Burlington Northern in 1997, should not be confined just to that purchase.

   Gene Duvernoy, executive director of the group, is a former King County employee with significant county business being thrown his way.

   In 1993, developers donated the 188-acre Saddle Swamp near Beaver Lake to the Conservancy, from which King County then bought a conservation easement. In addition to that public money, the private developers make substantial annual private contributions to the Conservancy for a stewardship fund. Since a 1995 county parks report stated a figure of $275/acre annually to maintain passive and natural lands, the annual contribution for just that one project could be substantial.

   Another former King County employee, Surface Water Management's Jim Kramer, now heads a similar group called Puget Sound Waterways. Mr. Kramer has said he needs a billion dollars over ten years to buy huge amounts of fish habitat land and is looking for government funding.

   Instead of dealing with private non-profit groups that use available appraisals to justify huge markups when selling to the government, the government should be dealing with traditional real estate brokerage buyers' agents. By law, buyers' agents are required to act in their buyers' best interests; their commissions are negotiable and they do not buy property themselves and then run up the price to the buyer "because it's worth more."

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville