The Federal Way City Council unanimously approved the acquisition of the Brooklake property and to cover the costs of delinquent property taxes as part of the deal, during the Council’s March 18 meeting.
The historic property began in the 1920s as the Wagon Wheel restaurant and eventually became the Brooklake Community Center.
The cost of the delinquent property taxes was northward of $10,000, but previous arrangements, dating back to the mid-80’s, meant the city had an interest in the property, according to Cary Roe, Public Works and Parks director who has since left the city.
“In 1983, Brooklake Community Center, Inc., leased the property to the Federal Way Community Center Association, a non-profit organization,” Roe recounted during the meeting. “In 1985, the Brooklake property was gifted to the Federal Way Community Association. Both the lease and statutory warranty deed limit the sale or transfer of the property to the ‘Metropolitan Park Department or city of Federal Way if incorporated, and/or the King County Parks Department or the State of Washington Parks and Recreation Department for use of said property for public perpetuity.’”
Roe noted that in 1994, the various interests entered into another agreement, where the city’s interest in the property remained “expressly stated.” The need for the city to step in came just recently, when the Federal Way Community Center Association dissolved as an organization, and that association’s president Wendell Kuecker felt the time was right to transfer the property.
The payment of those delinquent taxes was one request of Kuecker and his organization, Roe said, along with the recognition of Vern and Vera Frease for their long-term efforts at preserving the property and the historic buildings on the property.
The city did its required due diligence, and found that regardless of some existing issues, it appeared the property acquisition would be a net positive for the city. Roe said the city would be able to connect the property to the West Hylebos Wetlands park that is adjacent to it, and would hope to create an educational/learning center on the property.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, falls right in the heart of the Hylebos watershed, and as you know, the Public Works Department and the Surface Water Management Division has a very active program with school children releasing salmon and learning about the salmon cycle and the impacts of the environment on that species of fish,” he said.
The historic preservation efforts were the only questions Council members had about the property, with both Councilmembers Susan Honda and Martin Moore asking what exactly is intended with any efforts at historic preservation.
“I don’t have a specific answer,” Roe said to Honda’s initial question. “I know there’s a process and I think it would take some research on our part, to figure out what exactly is involved. Diana Noble-Gulliford is something of an expert in that area, and we hope to tap that knowledge and experience and bring it to bear on this question. I think the buildings will qualify, but it’s a matter of what the process will be and the time frame associated with it.”
Roe added that it’s essentially a decision on how “formal” the city wants to be regarding historic buildings.
“I think there’s two levels here. One, the city can say we want to continue to preserve the buildings and maybe invest in them, so they don’t erode over time,” he said. “That’s just a local decision that the Council could make. Stepping up to the historic register, it binds you a little more aggressively in regard to placement on the register and committing funds over the long run to make sure you’re preserving it, and as a result, being listed on that historic register. I see two levels there … I think it’s a formality in regards to the action.”