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Fundraising falling short for preservation of Trillium Woods

There are only a few hours left to bridge the $2 million gap in funding needed to preserve Trillium Woods, Whidbey Camano Land Trust officials said Thursday morning.

The land trust's option to buy the 664 acres between Freeland and Greenbank expires today. The trust must raise $4.2 million to secure the property.

UPDATE: A trio of Snohomish County banks extended the deadline to purchase the land late Thursday and the land trust now has an extra 90 days to come up with the money.

The nonprofit land trust wants to preserve the property in its current state, which is mostly forest land laced with popular hiking and horse trails. The fear is that if the land trust is unsuccessful, the property will be divided and sold to private developers.

"We're all making phone calls," said Elizabeth Guss, land trust director of outreach and development, "but we have a long way to go."

The land is owned by three Snohomish County banks, which bought it at public auction when the latest developer of the property failed to meet the requirements of his note.

Principal owner of the property is Shoreline Bank. Its partners are North County Bank of Arlington and Coastal Community Bank of Everett.

"There's still time," Jeffrey Lewis, president and chief operating officer of Shoreline Bank, said Thursday morning. "I don't want to jinx anything."

Lewis said other potential buyers remain interested in the property, but that the bank was continuing to meet with land trust officials Thursday to discuss possible options.

Guss said the "personal ask" telephone campaign continued to pick up steam Thursday, and that some of her own phone calls have resulted in additional donations and pledges.

"A lot of people are committed to this," she said.

The original 750-acre property, known most recently as the Estates at Whidbey, is west of Highway 525 about a mile north of Mutiny Bay Road. It was being developed by Dogwood Whidbey Development, created by Jesse Molnick and managed by The Molnick Group, his development, investment and brokerage firm based in Arlington.

Molnick defaulted on two loans, however, one for about $3.3 million, the other about $1.6 million, both from Shoreline Bank.

Molnick had proposed construction of planned residential developments (PRDs) to include clustered housing on three 50-acre parcels of 10 building lots each, a 12-lot PRD on about 60 acres, and a five-lot PRD on about 24 acres.

Only a small portion of prep work had been completed before the property was auctioned.

The Freeland Water and Sewer District recently bought 80 acres to use for its proposed sewer system.

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