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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sims Should’ve Known

posted by on June 18 at 14:53 PM

Surprise, surprise: Businesses won’t pay extra to jump through hoops. King County had been privately negotiating with YarrowBay Development Group to sell a 156-acre parcel in the middle of Maple Valley, called the “donut hole”, which I wrote about over here. But after the county opened up the bidding process, YarrowBay—still the only bidder—reduced its offering and now says it will no longer hand over a pristine piece of environmentally sensitive land the county had hoped to protect. So the county is saying the deal is off.

Reports Jim Brunner:

YarrowBay’s bid of $35 million came in far lower than the $45 million to $51 million the company had offered for the land in January, according to a letter from Kathy Brown, the county’s facilities-management director, to YarrowBay managing partner Brian Ross. Brown called YarrowBay’s latest offer “completely inadequate” in a May 19 letter obtained by The Seattle Times.

“We’re still in negotiations. The current proposal does not meet our needs,” said Brown, whose letter had threatened to call off talks if YarrowBay didn’t raise its bid substantially.

This is the county’s own damn fault. After getting bad press in January for the no-bid contract, King County Executive Ron Sims opened up the bidding process—but not really. The bidding window lasted only 60 days and the request for proposals was 14 pages long. It would be virtually impossible for another developer to submit such a detailed proposal in such a short amount of time. Sims knew—or should have known—that the only bidder who could turn around a proposal was YarrowBay. Sims also knew—or should have known—that YarrowBay would resent the additional time, money, and bad press the ordeal created and would lower its bid. Sims also knew—or should have known—that county budget would face a $68 million shortfall next year, and that this is no time for multi-million dollar blunders.

Note to county officials: If you’re going to enter a no-bid contract, brace for bad press—but keep at it. And if you want to open a request for proposals, make the conditions conducive to competition and higher bids.

RSS icon Comments


A $68 shortfall? If you want I can take up a collection in my building.

Posted by J Lee | June 18, 2008 3:50 PM

I wish it was only 68 bucks. Multiply that by a million. Thanks, J Lee. All fixed now.

Posted by Dominic Holden | June 18, 2008 4:02 PM

How does this compare to the hundreds of billions we lost when they let the country invest in collateral debt obligations (aka funny money in houses)?

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 18, 2008 4:20 PM

Does this mean Yarrow Bay gets to develop the Icy Creek tract?

Posted by laterite | June 18, 2008 4:30 PM

YarrowBay has always had the option of developing, which means plotting a course through the county and environmental permitting process, and finding a bank seem willing to give them favorable construction loan terms for new housing in an exurb where values are dropping faster than in the city. Perhaps if the undeveloped land drags heavily enough on the developer's balance sheet, the county or a land conservancy could get it for a song.

It's not clear yet that this is a blunder. Could wind up being okay.

Posted by tomasyalba | June 18, 2008 4:55 PM

@4: The way I understand the Icy Creek situation is this: currently, Palmer Coking Coal owns Icy Creek, and in 2004, Martin Durkan Jr (a lobbyist who's working to set this deal up who lives in MV) bought acreage in the Icy Creek area and then applied for permits to subdivide his piece into 5-acre lots to possibly build houses on. In doing this, it justified the idea that Icy Creek is under threat of development. If it's where I think it is (near Green River, between two state parks), building anything out there is iffy with gas prices-- there are a lot of service jobs in MV, but for administrative/office/Boeing/Microsoft, etc, you need to drive 45min-hour out. Add in that the area gets a fair amount of snow, and you're looking at a hard sell with gas nearing $5/gallon.

To forward this deal, once Durkan permitted his parcel, he gave it back to YarrowBay last year so they could offer it as part of the deal with King County. If the deal goes through, YarrowBay gets the Donut Hole, King County gets to buy a tract of land worth $6-8 million dollars, and Palmer Coking Coal gets cash.

On a side note, fuck PCC. I grew up in Black Diamond alongside their strip mine. When they were done digging coal out, and had ruined the adjacent lake (which was a primary water source for the people living on it, which used to include my family), they promptly claimed they couldn't afford to clean up their mess. There had been a fence along the road near the mine for years so people couldn't see what was going on. When they closed the mine the fence disappeared, and finally everyone saw what a giant scar there was. It's still there.

Posted by Jessica | June 18, 2008 5:24 PM
Posted by Jessica | June 18, 2008 5:25 PM

What I'd like to know is if the real estate market is collapsing and property values are plummeting (as any Stranger article or post will tell you) why does the tax assessment value on my property keep going up (and when should I expect it to start to drop?)

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | June 18, 2008 6:06 PM

@8 - after people stop moving to our county.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 19, 2008 12:10 AM

@8: When people stop voting for levies and bond issues.

Posted by J.R. | June 19, 2008 2:53 PM

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