The possible sale of nearly 20 acres of surplus land by the Steilacoom Historical School Board brought 40 community residents to a school board meeting to make sure board members new where they stood: solidly in favor of retaining the land as open space and not allowing it to be sold for more development.
School Board President Al Lawrence opened the Thursday night meeting by telling those in attendance that after Superintendent Dr. Art Himmler presented information on the issue everyone interested would have a chance to express their view on the issue and that would be followed by a question and answer session.
The school board earlier in August declared the 18.42 acres adjoining Saltar’s Point Elementary School as surplus and is considering options to dispose of the property. The property, which is about one third declared wetland, has been in the district for many years. Exactly when it was acquired wasn’t immediately available at the meeting.
Steilacoom District Superintendent Dr. Art Himmler (right) explains how an 18.42 parcel might be sold. Board president Al Lawrence (standing in blue shirt) asked residents to show up for a Pierce County Conservation Futures presentation Sept. 10.
Dr. Himmler explained that the Pierce County Conservation Futures (PCCF) board approached the district to see if the land was available. The board decided it was not appropriate for future school structures and therefore could be sold. Dr. Himmler explained that the PCCF considers property for acquisition by the county to be held as open space. The property is just one of about 17 currently being considered.
The property in question occupies a large part of the wooded area in this photo. Saltar’s Point Elementary School is at top of photo and houses at bottom are part of Cormorant Passage sub-division.
Actually, the Saltar’s Point property is one of six parcels the school district has available for sale, according to the superintendent. “Just because the board is considering sale of these parcels, doesn’t mean all of them or any of them will actually be sold,” he added. Any money received from the sale of school property must be put into capital projects, such as new buildings or remodeling.
Residents of the Cormorant Passage sub-division as well as those living closer to the school itself made repeated remarks about keeping the property as open space. Referring to Steilacoom’s quality of life, several speakers noted that green space was disappearing as development continued.
Is leaving the property in the hands of the school district or under conservation futures control a better option, one Cormorant resident asked? Dr. Himmler pointed out that if the land were acquired for a conservation purpose that means it would stay in open space. “A new school board in the future could decide to sell the land for other purposes,” he added, “so the conservation program would give more assurance of the land staying open.”
The PCCF will hear proposals on the Saltar’s Point land and others at a meeting at the Lakewood Community Center on Sept. 10. The Steilacoom School Board will make a 15-minute presentation on the property at 8:40 pm. The meeting is open to the public and Lawrence encouraged residents to attend to show the conservations future group the interest from the community.
Responding to a question, Dr. Himmler said the district’s board of directors will have to determine what the property’s highest and best use may be in making the ultimate decision.
After the Sept. 10 meeting, the PCCF will actually make its decision on properties later this fall.