The city accidentally built Fire Station No. 7 at Silver Lake in the wrong place.
Officials forgot that the city accepted a federal grant to improve Sullivan Park. The fire station was later built on a corner of the 23-acre park in 1996.
The grant, issued in 1979 to improve the park, stipulated that the land on Silver Lake -- all of it -- was supposed to forever remain dedicated for outdoor activities.
The only solution available is for Everett to convert another chunk of land into a park, one that's "of at least equal value and reasonably equivalent location and recreational utility," according to the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, the agency that awards recreation and conservation grants.
The original $44,900 grant can't simply be repaid to the state. And ignoring the board's direction from 32 years ago could hamper the city's ability to get more grants.
"We're trying to safeguard the public's investment in the property," said Recreation and Conservation Funding Office spokeswoman Susan Zemek.
The 3.5 acre property the city is offering is at 1020 109th Street SE -- that's across I-5 from Silver Lake. The city bought that property in 2008, part of 15 acres of forested land that cost $1 million.
The city didn't originally buy the land with this situation in mind.
The property is mostly wetland. The city wants that land to be a "passive" park in which people can stroll on trails and boardwalks.
The city and the state board are now accepting public comment on the proposed substitution. The state is scheduled to decide that matter June 23 in Olympia.
The matter just became public this week, after the city published a "park conversion" notice on its website.
Everett has spent more than three years trying to come up with a fix that will satisfy the state.
State records show that the city was warned as early as 2000 that the fire station shouldn't have been built within the park boundary. An inspector sent former parks and recreation director Bob Cooper a letter about the situation.
Nothing happened, Zemek said. In 2005, the same state inspector returned to the park and sent another letter, this time to the parks and recreation director at the time, Susan Francisco. He reminded the city about the fire station and another compliance problem: a new road to the fire station cut off one portion of the park property from the main park.
Paul Kaftanski, current parks and recreation director, wasn't available for comment Thursday.
Kaftanski discovered the problem while rooting through old files sometime after late 2006 when he took over the job, Reardon said, and he immediately began to research the issue and contacted the state.
It's rare for cities to make mistakes like this one, Zemek said, and Everett has been working in good faith since Kaftanski took over.
In state history, this type of situation has happened 40 times. This is the first time in Everett.
Since the money went toward improving the park and not buying land, there was nothing on the deed that indicated stipulations existed on the land's use, she said.
Reardon said Thursday it's not clear how the matter was overlooked -- twice. None of the people involved in the fire station's construction currently work for the city.
"We don't know what the line of thinking was," she said.
Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or email@example.com.
The state Recreation and Conversation Funding Board plans to vote on whether to accept the city's substitution for lost park land June 23 at the Natural Resources Building, Room 172, Olympia, WA 98504. Send comments on the city's proposal to the state Recreation and Conservation Office by mail at Attn: Rebecca Connolly, board liaison, P.O. Box 40917, Olympia, WA 98504-0917. You also may submit comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may also be sent to the city to email@example.com.
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