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NORTH BEND, WA—The 400-acre Tollgate Farm is a “cultural icon” of the North Bend community. So says Andrea Fullerton, public affairs manager for the Northwest Region of the Trust for Public Lands. Slated for development, public outcry and the significance of the property prompted the TPL to begin a campaign to acquire the property.

In July, the TPL and King County collectively acquired 370 acres of the farm from Seattle-based Miller Land and Timber LLC. TPL has now announced its acquisition of a second 51.65-acre section from Miller Land — for $6.65 million. That transaction closed on the Nov. 16.

Fullerton was unable to immediately confirm what was paid in July for the land that has since been deeded to the City of North Bend and King County. Sources, however, estimate the value of the entire Tollgate farmland to be in the range of $12 million to $14 million.

Fullerton says prior to TPL’s negotiations with Miller Land and Timber, it appeared the property was headed in the direction of development. Though she’s not sure how far Miller Land had gotten, Fullerton says, “The landowners were putting out feelers and had at least the vision for a one-million square foot office park.”

The TPL representative says North Bend “is not anti-development.” She says, “It knew an office park would bring in jobs before, during and after construction. But, the point is that there are many other places much more appropriate for development in the city.”

A spokesperson for Miller Land and Timber confirms for GlobeSt that the company had been looking to develop the property. Why did it decide to sell to TPL? “That’s what the people of North Bend wanted,” she says. “They wanted it to be preserved, so Mr. Miller sold the property to the Trust.”

This latest transaction almost never happened. Fullerton says a North Bend levy to raise money for the 52 acres recently failed by 23 votes. At that point an anonymous donor stepped in. “We can’t say exactly how much was donated, but it was substantial enough that TPL was able to go to the landowners and negotiate a lower purchase price,” says Fullerton. She adds that the city was able to use general obligation funds for the balance without having to put it to a vote.

TPL has an option on the farm’s remaining 30 acres. Whether or not the organization will exercise on it remains to be seen. Fullerton says the 52 acres just acquired, known as the Central Meadows, were the most important for historic, open space and wildlife habitat considerations. The last 30 acres she says is the least important and not critical to the TPL’s objectives.

A spokesperson for Miller Land and Timber tells GlobeSt a deal for the last 30 acres “is still under negotiation.” However, Fullerton says, “There’s a good chance we may not buy this piece. We need to discuss it with North Bend and King County to see if it is a priority for them.”

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