Friends acquire Freeland property

"Friends of Freeland has done it.With the help of some friends, the Friends group has acquired approximately 18 acres of land between Scott and Newman roads.As told by Herb Hunt, leader of Friends of Freeland, the property acquisition has two main parts:* Friends of Freeland will hold title to 12 acres of natural wetlands, a purchase made possible through a months-long fundraising effort that still continues.* The upland 6.5 acres was acquired by partners of the Friends group, including Debora Valis and Steve Shapiro, and Robert and Janis Adamson. Each couple will own approximately three acres.Hunt said Friends of Freeland will have an opportunity to acquire the Valis/Shapiro parcel in a manner that fits our mission, at no gain to themselves -- we definitely want to purchase it from Steve and Debora.The few acres owned by the Adamsons consist of two lots, Hunt said. Plans are to develop it as a good example of commercial development or, as Hunt described it, to create a great role model for Freeland, to show how it could be done.For supporters of Friends of Freeland, yesterday was a time to throw hats into the air. Tomorrow the land will be saved, Hunt said Thursday.The three-party land purchase came after months of negotiations with owner Chris Kelly, who started the process with a land auction last March. Friends of Freeland was hastily organized to bid on the property, submitting a $270,000 offer. Kelly rejected the bid, but negotiations continued, and the purchase deadline was extended at least twice.It was a long shot. It was a wild rollercoaster ride, Hunt said, describing the purchase process. He credited the Camano Whidbey Land Trust with helping Friends of Freeland succeed in the effort. They've been a wonderful help, he said. They gave us time to pull it together.No public documents were immediately available, but Hunt said the three parcels of property sold for a combined $635,000.While Friends of Freeland did not acquire the entire 18-acre parcel, officers expressed satisfaction with the three-party solution. Roger Harrison, Friends board member, said the acquisition serves the spirit of the original project, and the current concept is aligned with the vision and mission that has animated us all along.Another board member, Chet Ross, emphasized that the portions of the property not controlled by Friends of Freeland will be subject to covenants and easements designed to ensure that the property's use is aligned with the concept of community service.Friends of Freeland in the past have described uses of the property ranging from park-like open space to facilities for education and art as well as suitable commercial development. But there are no concrete plans at this early stage of property ownership.We invite and encourage the local community's participation in building our vision of how this property will be used for the good of Freeland, said board member Jeanne Juneau.Donations are still being sought to help with acquisition costs. Direct checks or questions to Friends of Freeland, P.O. Box 861, Freeland WA 98249, or call 331-1224. "

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