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Federal Way can buy 18-acre Laurelwood Park for about $8,000 to escape foreclosure

The rundown 18.29-acre Laurelwood Park, near South 292nd Street, is in danger of foreclosure. The Laurelwood Community Club is requesting the city take ownership of the park. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
The rundown 18.29-acre Laurelwood Park, near South 292nd Street, is in danger of foreclosure. The Laurelwood Community Club is requesting the city take ownership of the park.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Federal Way will consider purchasing a 18.29-acre park in danger of foreclosure.

Laurelwood Community Club requested the city acquire Laurelwood Park, near South 292nd Street, in April 2008.

In an effort to escape foreclosure and retain the space, the homeowners association asked the city to take ownership of the park. If the city council approves the purchase, it will save the property from being put up for public sale. In addition, the purchase could also help the city meet requirements associated with its City Center Access Project.

Residents in the Laurelwood subdivision have owned Laurelwood Park since the 1960s — but now find themselves unable to pay back taxes and insurance on the land. A homeowners association covenance that once required neighbors to contribute to the park's taxes and maintenance was lifted more than 20 years ago, resident Rick Watt said. Since that time, five families have annually stepped up to pay the taxes and keep the park maintained, he said.

The task has become difficult.

"We've tried to stay up on the maintenance, but unfortunately, there has not been the support over the last few years to keep the park up," Watt said.

History

Club members voted unanimously last year to ask Federal Way to transfer ownership of the property.

Taxes owed to King County on the park's two parcels amount to $8,453, according to a Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety city council agenda bill. The unpaid taxes date back to 2006, according to the same document.

If the city acquires the space, it will be responsible for paying the overdue taxes and closing costs on the property, according to the agenda bill. If it chooses not to accept the acreage, the county plans to file for a tax foreclosure in May, then place the property for sale as soon as December.

Park space

The area is overgrown, but currently houses an outdated playground, tennis court and basketball court.

It also has a baseball field, picnic area and limited parking. Kids still use the basketball court, Laurelwood resident Rebecca Watling said. It has a lot of potential, she said.

"It had its security issues but, all and all, my kids had a ball out there growing up," Watling said.

She and resident Rick Watt fear that if the city does not take over the land, and the families are unable to pay another year's worth of taxes, the acreage will be sold and developed.

"I hate to see it go to waste, and I hate to see it go to somebody to develop," Watling said.

The acquisition would add public park space to an area of Federal Way much in need of it, Watt said.

The park will require some maintenance before it could be safe for public use. Trash and invasive plant species need to be removed. The community club agreed to clean and maintain it for two years if the city chooses to attain the land, city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. Anything is up for discussion, Watt said.

"Basically, they would cover the costs for it for this budget period," Farmer said.

City Center Access

The park could also serve another purpose: It would meet mitigation requirements posed by the City Center Access project.

The project is an attempt to improve downtown city access and traffic. If the council chooses to widen South 312th Street near Steel Lake Park, the project will overtake some park property. The city would be required to offset space forfeited to the project by acquiring equivalent open space or a park.

About 1.2 acres of Laurelwood Park could be used as mitigation for the City Center Access Project — given the city council moves forward with the project at South 312th Street, Farmer said.

The city council will vote on the issue at its March 17 regularly scheduled meeting. If the donation is accepted, there are no known plans to change the park's purpose or purchase additional equipment, Farmer said. What is currently on the property will be made safe for public use.

"They weren't going to let it go to seed," she said. "It was meant for it to be a park."

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