County to buy land to protect rare peat bog from development

MALTBY — Snohomish County leaders moved Wednesday to buy land around a rare peat bog where a developer earlier planned to build luxury homes.

The County Council unanimously voted to buy Hooven Bog for $1.6 million. The deal includes pasture land to the west that had been used for access. Along with the land acquisition, the agreement includes a developer dropping his court case seeking damages from the county over permit delays.

“If the county really wants this, I think that’s the best use,” developer Rodney Loveless said earlier this week.

Randy Whalen, a neighbor who has led efforts to protect the wetland, was overjoyed.

“I’m glad to see it happen,” Whalen said. “It could have been much longer if we had (to) go through grants and go outside the county.”

Whalen had sued to stop the county from issuing grading permits for the project. Earlier this year, the state Court of Appeals agreed to review a Superior Court judge’s decision in favor of the developer.

Loveless, 88, of Kenmore, bought the property in the 1970s. For about 30 years, he and his business partner, Robert Dillon of Kirkland, planned to develop it. About seven years ago, they began trying in earnest to build five luxury homes near the bog’s south shore.

Dillon died last month at age 90 following a short illness. The two men had worked together on commercial and residential building projects for more than 50 years.

The bog lies immediately north of the county line, less than a mile from Highway 522.

Its nutrient-poor, acidic environment is home to mats of sphagnum moss several yards thick that float in the bog water. Stunted pines and Western hemlocks grow there, along with a rare bladderwort species.

The bog waters flow to Crystal Lake and eventually to the Bear Creek stream system.

Similar wetlands are mostly confined to Snohomish and King counties, and few remain. They likely formed after glaciers retreated from Western Washington about 10,000 years ago.

Since the bog’s plight began attracting media attention this year, the county has received more than 150 letters of support from people advocating for its conservation, Deputy County Executive Mark Ericks said. The land the county is preparing to buy totals about 40 acres. County leaders still need to decide how to pay for the purchase.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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