June 21, 1999
The letters and calls sounded the alarm that the community could easily lose a valuable piece of public property and asked officials to comment on the status of the negotiations.
The historic brick Woodinville school, the Sorenson complex with pool and gymnasium, and the Sorenson ballfields sit on more than six acres facing NE 175th St. The property is used for Woodinville City Hall and by many community groups, including Woodinville West Little League and Northshore Youth Soccer, who have more than 6,700 players on those fields seven months out of the year. Other users include Woodinville Farmer's Market, Northshore YMCA, Head Start, and Basset Bash.
An official at the Northshore School District said that the district is interested in keeping this property in the public sector.
The City of Woodinville has been in and out of negotiations with the school district since its incorporation in 1993, through three city councils, three city managers, and two failed bond issues. The private negotiations continue today. Four years ago, the city purchased three acres adjacent to the Sorenson property.
Prior to Woodinville's incorporation, the county was interested in preserving the property and cooperated with the sports groups in developing the ballfields. Louise Miller, King County Council Chair, led the County in this effort. The following is her statement this week on this issue:
"WAKE UP, WOODINVILLE!
"The community needs to ask our elected officials on the Northshore School Board and the Woodinville City Council what's happening with the ballfields, schoolhouse, and community center in downtown Woodinville. Our tax dollars paid for these buildings and ballfields, but the school district wants to surplus and sell them.
"Here's what we lose if we don't keep these facilities in public ownership: The last historic building in downtown Woodinville; a gymnasium, swimming pool, and classrooms that are used by many different community organizations and the city; and finally, the only ballfields in town for thousands of kids who play soccer and baseball.
"The Sorenson fields were developed with grant money from King County in 1994. I remember, because as your King County Council member, I cut the ribbon on the first day of play. Having spent the last six years on the county council trying to provide more parks and ballfields, I can honestly tell you there is no way to replace the fields or buildings now used by our community. Ask yourself if you're willing to let these irreplaceable facilities be lost forever. Do you want to be one to tell a child who wants to play ball they can't because there's no place to play?
"The citizens of Woodinville need to be active in telling the city council and school board that they must save these buildings and ball fields for the community. Tell them that we all support their actions to make it happen now!" said Miller.
Former city councilmembers Lucy DeYoung and Art Saulness were active in city's efforts in purchasing this property. "It is easier to find money than it is to replace this property," said Saulness.
Pete Rose, City Manager of the City of Woodinville, received numerous calls this past week and gave the following response:
"A memorandum recently distributed at youth ball games by concerned persons has generated a number of calls to City Hall and elected officials seeking clarification.
"The memorandum suggests that a sale of the Sorenson School complex will result in the subsequent loss of the ballfields on the west side of that property. The message asks readers to contact the City of Woodinville and Northshore School District to ensure the property is not sold to a developer and to ensure that the fields are kept available for area youth.
"Because this is an issue of concern shared by many citizens and we are a public agency, we thank the Woodinville Weekly for allowing us to respond in this very public forum.
"Presently, the City of Woodinville does not own the property. The City is leasing the old Woodinville School from the Northshore School District as a temporary City Hall building. The City has been in and out of discussions with the District regarding the acquisition of the property for about six years. The City has even had recent discussions with Northshore about this property. Unfortunately, details of any discussions about property acquisition are protected by laws that allow confidentiality.
"The City of Woodinville has recently met with leaders from the Youth Soccer and Little League associations. We share their concerns about the lack of playing fields in the Woodinville area. The City Council agrees with the need for recreational open space and is sensitive to the importance of these fields. The City's Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan, which was adopted by the City Council, documents the field shortage and suggests that the City of Woodinville partner with schools and area groups to help solve this region-wide problem.
"It is well known through this newspaper that the City is currently planning to build a City Hall building on three acres behind the Sorenson complex. However, in no way should this suggest that the City has forgotten the value and importance the public places on the Sorenson property.
"Please be assured that should the City of Woodinville come into possession of the Sorenson complex, there would be a very open and public process used to discuss the future of the property, including the playing fields. All of the stakeholders would be invited to take an active role in helping us shape a collective vision. In fact, this offer is available to citizens of our community every week. We encourage everyone to come to the City Council meetings each Monday at 7 p.m. There are public comment opportunities at every session and we welcome and value your input.''
Citizens who want to heard on this issue should contact the appropriate officials.