Woodway bond measure, levy: Convent would be community center

WOODWAY — It’s not everyday that one decides whether to buy a $5.9 million convent.

That’s the choice, though, that voters in Woodway face this month.

For 53 years, an order of Dominican nuns has owned the Rosary Heights estate and its commanding views on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound.

Now the nuns are leaving, driven away by rising maintenance costs and declining membership.

They have given Woodway the first crack at purchasing property.

A $6.2 million bond on the August ballot would pay to purchase and maintain the property.

To pass, 60 percent of voters must approve the purchase.

The bond would cost an average homeowner $650 a year. The average home in Woodway is worth $1.3 million.

Some community members have raised concerns about the costs.

Nevertheless, if voters approve, Woodway plans to turn the estate into a combination town hall, community center and environmental education center.

The 15-acre property also has room for public open space.

“I see it as a community amenity,” Mayor Carla Nichols said. “It is kind of like having a good school system. It is something that everybody can benefit from.”

Voters in Woodway will also decide in August on an operations levy.

The money is needed to keep the town from having to tap its savings, Nichols said.

Woodway’s costs are rising faster than its revenues, town administrator Eric Faison said.

“Slowly but surely, that has eaten away at our ability to provide basic services,” he said.

No businesses call Woodway home, so the town’s revenue is dependent on property taxes. State law forbids property tax revenue from growing faster than 1 percent a year without voter approval.

Town expenses face no such restriction. Woodway’s fire costs alone are rising at least 5 percent a year, Faison said.

The levy would also cost an average homeowner $650 a year.

Chris Fyall: 425-339-3447, cfyall@heraldnet.com.

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