King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn called it “a great day for King County” when the Issaquah School Board approved the sale of the Winterbrook Farm property at a special meeting on Friday afternoon.
After a 30-minute executive session, the board unanimously voted to sell the 80-acre tract of land off of Southeast May Valley Road to Erik and Jennifer Johnson of Issaquah for $4.17 million.
In October 2016, the board had authorized the sale of the Winterbrook property to William Buchan Homes for $4.16 million; the Bellevue-based builder intended to put 16 houses on the property.
The Johnsons had submitted their $4.17 million offer of purchase in February of this year in case Buchan decided not to go through with the purchase.
And indeed, after conducting a feasibility study, Buchan Homes decided to terminate the purchase and sale agreement earlier this week.
According to the Issaquah School District Resolution 1087, Buchan “remains interested in the property and submitted a back-up offer to purchase the property for $4.16 million.”
The district’s decision to sell the property to the Johnsons, who plan to leave the farmland as is rather than develop it, overjoyed both locals and King County officials, who had been calling for the land to be preserved due to the many species of wildlife that call the property home, the agricultural and recreational potential for the land and the historic significance of the 87-year-old dairy barn and farmhouse that sit on the property.
“It’s great news that the Johnsons stepped forward and helped preserve this very important piece of property as open space for the future,” Dunn said.
A group of nearly 200 residents of Issaquah, Sammamish and Renton formed the group Friends of Winterbrook earlier this year to preserve the property as farmland. A handful of these group members turned out to show their support for the district’s decision at Friday’s meeting.
Winterbrook Farm is the habitat of a herd of elk, deer, ducks, owls, hawks, bobcats, coyotes, bears and salmon, which swim in two streams on the property.
Additionally, the land presents the opportunity to connect the recreational trails on Tiger Mountain and Squak Mountain with the Log Cabin Reach Natural Area and the Cedar River Trail. According to Dunn, the new owners of the Winterbrook Farm property plan to work with the county to “incorporate the land as part of the trail system.”
Dunn called the tract of farmland “one of the crowning jewels of May Valley.”
The Issaquah School District bought the Winterbrook property in 2006 for $3.33 million with the intent to put two schools on the land. However, the Growth Management Act nixed the option of building on the site, according to School Board President Lisa Callan.
After finding out that there was no possibility of putting a school there, the district began looking for a buyer for the property. The district had been in talks with King County, but could not agree on valuation.
Despite not being able to purchase the land, King County had expressed its support for keeping Winterbrook a farm and not a housing development.
“It’s a happy day for the county … the Issaquah School Board made a very wise choice,” Dunn said.