Tsunami of outrage swamps land swap

Paul Christensen

LONG BEACH - A series of events on Monday pointed in one direction: The proposed land swap involving the city of Long Beach, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and Vancouver-based RealVest Corp. was dead in the water.

A full house at a Monday Long Beach City Council meeting watched as the tide succinctly turned against the controversial land swap.

At the meeting, a unanimous vote passed Resolution 2002-5, which ended the city's tie to the land swap. Without city support for the land swap, the possibility of rezoning the property from conservancy to resort/residential for development evaporated.

The vote came after council member Ralph Moore announced he was dedicated to stopping the land swap at the July 23 Town Hall meeting in Long Beach.

From that point on, it looked as if support for the land swap was a washout, particularly in light of the fact that fellow councilors Mike Unruh and Gary Luethe had also come out against the swap at a July 15 city council meeting. With Moore's pledge, councilors against the swap totaled three against, leaving Don Maxson and Ron Zuern on the outer edge of support for the deal.

But at Monday's city council meeting, all councilors were in agreement and voted unanimously to pass Resolution 2002-5, which rescinded Resolution 2002-4, thus ending the city's ties to the land swap.

Jacobson, said to a rousing round of applause after Resolution 2002-5 was approved, "Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new direction."

Passing 2002-5 is indeed a new direction. It's a distinct reversal of the city's previous desire help State Parks rid itself of 41 acres of beachfront property off the Bolstad beach approach, which was at the heart of land swap deal. State Parks wanted to trade off the Bolstad property for a 48-acre parcel of RealVest-owned beachfront property in Ilwaco, adjacent to Fort Canby State Parks.

Resolution 2002-5 states that the city council supports preservation of the State Parks Bolstad property to be preserved "in perpetuity as a public property to provide for public open space and parks."

State Parks: Land swap proposal withdrawn

Resolution 2002-5 also directs city staff to present the city of Long Beach's new position on this matter at the Aug. 1 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in Chinook, even though the issue of the land swap has been removed from the meeting's agenda. This decision was made public at the Monday city council meeting.

On Tuesday morning, according to State Parks Spokesperson Virginia Painter, the proposal for the land exchange has been withdrawn, although the issue "may be discussed at the Aug. meeting," she added.

"The proposal was withdrawn because State Parks and RealVest do not agree on the appraised values of the properties to be exchanged," said Painter. "But, State Parks still has a strong desire to acquire the RealVest property in Ilwaco."

Painter added that State Parks will continue to work with the city of Long Beach in order to acquire the RealVest property, although she did not specify whether this would include all 93 acres of the RealVest, or just the 48 acres of beachfront RealVest property.

Resolution 2002-5: More parks for Long Beach

Section 4 of 2002-5 directs the city staff to work with State Parks to procure the Bolstad property as well as other State Park's lands within Long Beach, specifically including State Park's land located between Eighth Street NW and 14th Street NW for city ownership, for the purposes of creating permanent public open space and parks.

Resolution 2002-5 states clearly in Section 5 that should the city of Long Beach's efforts fail to secure State Park's Bolstad property, and the property is exchanged through a land swap with RealVest Corp., city staff is directed to present the city council with the documents to implement eminent domain proceedings to obtain ownership of the property.

Section 6 of 2002-5 directs the city's staff to work with the State Legislature and State Parks to obtain the RealVest property at Beards Hollow for State Parks for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public.

The decision to pass 2002-5 was made after Long Beach Mayor Dale Jacobson read a letter from Sen. Sid Snyder, D-Long Beach, which he had sent to State Parks. In the letter he announced his opposition to the land swap.

The letter was dated July 29 and was issued after several months of public silence regarding the land swap issue. (See letter at left.)

Councilors issue statements on land swap

After voting unanimously to approve Resolution 2002-5 all five members of the city council issued statements on the land swap and ending the city's ties to it.

Luethe, who proposed rescinding Resolution 2002-4 at a July 15 city council meeting, said the process of deciding on the city's role in the matter of the land swap has been an emotional one.

"I'm tickled that all the people got together," said Luethe. "We've got to continue our pressure on State Parks. We can't let up."

Maxson said he was truly and sincerely opposed to the land swap from the beginning and he really appreciated the forthcoming of everybody and their input on the issue. He said it was this input which swayed him to oppose it. He said it reminded him of an old movie called "The Mouse That Roared."

"In this case, I think Long Beach roared," said Maxson.

According to Zuern, the council was sort of the juror in the land swap issue, adding that he didn't feel all the facts were in until last week. He said the best thing that came out of the whole process was that the community came together.

Moore described the community's citizens coming to the city and State Parks meetings and hearings to speak out on the behalf of saving the Bolstad dunes as a great grassroots movement.

"I'm an old Marine," said Moore. "We took the same hill twice lots of times, but you won't see me on this hill again, except with my grandchildren."

Unruh thanked all of the citizens of the town for standing up, speaking up, and doing their homework on the land swap issue.

"They just saved the beachfront out there," said Unruh. "I applaud you - good job."  

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