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Thursday, July 25, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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County will keep forest undeveloped

Seattle Times staff reporter

A 443-acre forest west of Carnation will be permanently protected from development through a King County program that will transfer those building rights to more-urban areas within the county.

King County will pay landowner Port Blakely $2.8 million, including $500,000 in federal money, to continue its private logging operations on the property and abandon plans to develop a golf course and 70 homes.

The land, near the Snoqualmie River between Carnation and Ames Lake, is home to deer, bears and elk, said Rudy Edwards, a district manager for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

"It's going to be a working forest for perpetuity," said County Executive Ron Sims, who touted the deal as win-win growth management.

County Councilman Larry Phillips, who was instrumental in the deal, called it a milestone in county history.

"We are an urban county, and we are continuing to urbanize all the time, but there is a heritage people want to preserve," he said.

King County began experimenting with development rights in 1998, allowing developers to buy such rights to rural lands in exchange for permission to build higher-density urban projects than the county otherwise would allow.

More than 700 acres of open space have previously been protected through the program, which allows taller buildings in downtown Seattle's Denny Triangle, south of Denny Way, and a 50 percent increase in the number of homes allowed in some unincorporated areas of the county.

In this case, King County is buying development rights to the timberland and placing those rights into its "bank" for purchase by developers. An undetermined portion of the $2.8 million purchase price will be recouped when those rights are sold.

Jim Warjone, president of Port Blakely, said his company has owned the land since 1888, logging it three times in that span. It's typical for timber companies to sell off lands when the real-estate market makes logging a less-attractive use, he said.

"This administration is really amazing," he said. "These are people who understand there are things we can do for each other."

Diane Brooks: 206-464-2567 or dbrooks@seattletimes.com.

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