Purchase of Zylstra Lake on council's Nov. 30 agenda

San Juan County Council will vote on an amendment to the Land Bank's 2015 budget at the Monday, November 30, 2015 council meeting. The revisions add the purchase of a conservation easement on the former Lawson Farm and a partial assignment of a residential purchase and sale agreement for Zylstra Lake.  

Amaro Property (Lawson Farm) on West Valley Road on San Juan Island. 

View from Mount Grant (AKA Lawson's Ridge).

The vote is slated for the 9:15 a.m. time slot on the meeting agenda.   

Amaro Property (Lawson Farm) conservation easement ($215,000) will:

Eliminate 10 of 14 potential residential units and limit future subdivision to four lots only.

Prohibit structures in open field areas or where they would be visible from the Road. Residences and appurtenant structures would be located in clearly defined building envelopes.

Context map of the Amaro property including nearby public conservation lands 

The acquistion of Zyltra Lake, located on San Juan Island, could provide recreational opportunities - swimming, fishing, hiking. The Land Bank will seek another agency, likely either County Parks or Island Rec to manage the recreational aspects of the property.

The updated information presented to the council on November 24, 2015 did not include the Town of Friday Harbor as a partner. The material  submitted by the Land Bank for that meeting included a $1 million contribution from the town and elimination of the need for additions to Trout Lake Dam. According to Town Administrator Duncan Wilson, the Town has not made a decision to participate. The feasibility of depending on water from Zylstra Lake is questionable.

The updated information presented to the council included:

Zylstra Lake Acquisition ($3 million). According to the Land Bank's report: 

The Zylstra Lake property is one of the last remaining large parcels in San Juan Valley and has been farmed for many decades. The water right associated with the property is the senior water right in San Juan Valley and governs upstream water uses, including the Town of Friday Harbor’s second auxiliary pumping station which is used to pump water back upstream into their reservoir at Trout Lake.

The flow into, and capacity of both the upper and lower lakes also provides an unparalleled opportunity to restore year-round flow to False Bay Creek and thus allow the creation of more than three miles of habitat for spawning salmon and sea run cutthroat trout.

The upper lake represents a critical recreational resource providing an opportunity for the community to swim, fish, and utilize all manner of non-motorized vessels, and the area around it presents the possibility for several miles of pedestrian and possible multiple-use trails.

The property also has considerable agricultural value with a good deal of built infrastructure and high quality pastureland. 

This transaction will involve a number of partners, including the:

San Juan County Land Bank

San Juan Preservation Trust (SJPT)

A third-party private buyer

And potentially the:

Department of Ecology (DOE)

Washington Water Trust (WWT),

Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB),

Ducks Unlimited (DU) via the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA),

National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program (NCWGP)

Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP).

The purchase will be staged over a three-year period and involve sequential purchases of portions of the property. These will be described in detail in a Partial Assignment of the contract now held by SJPT to the Land Bank. There will be an initial payment of $300,000 on December 15, 2015 and $900,000 payments made in December of 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The purchase price for the property is $3,000,000 spread over a three year period with 4% annual interest. The Land Bank is committed to spending $250,000 in 2015 to allow the deal to close before the end of the year and an additional $250,000 in 2016.

The area outlined in red is the 120-acre "Lower Lake", the area outlined in blue is the 160-acre "Upper Lake", the area outlined in black is the 30-acre "October Farm".

The Land Bank anticipates a third party buyer purchasing the roughly 30-acre “October Farm” containing the majority of the farm infrastructure in 2016. At that point, that portion of the property would be released from the Deed of Trust .

SJPT is also committed to spend $500,000. When that payment is made (either through SJPT or using grant funds or other sources), the roughly 120-acre “Lower Lake” property would be released.

SJPT will then assign its interest in the lower lake property to the Land Bank and assume all responsibility for purchase of the 160-acre “Upper Lake” property.

The last two payments of $300,000 in December 2017 and $900,000 in 2018 with an additional 4% accrued interest will conclude the transaction.

At that point, SJPT and the Land Bank would exchange titles on the Upper and Lower Lake parcels with the Land Bank ending up owning the Upper and SJPT the Lower. Both will retain conservation easements on the exchanged parcels.

The Land Bank and SJPT will seek at least $2,500,000 in grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, NAWCA, WWRP and $100,000 from DOE and WWT to purchase an in stream water right. Note that potential grant funding amount are estimated.

Total Land Bank REET contribution anticipated: $500,000.

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