Enumclaw School District land transfer request denied

A land dispute between the Tahoma and Enumclaw school districts was settled in favor of Tahoma Oct. 3.

The Puget Sound Educational Service District Regional Committee on School District Organization unanimously denied the Enumclaw School District’s proposed land transfer of the North Triangle, located in Black Diamond, from the Tahoma School District to Enumclaw.

The North Triangle, which is about 54 acres and is slated for commercial development as part of the proposed Lawson Hills master planned community by YarrowBay in Black Diamond, is currently undeveloped.

Enumclaw officials initiated the petition in late 2012 because of the parcel’s status as part of the master planned community. Hypothetical future residents of the proposed community, which is geographically separate from the commercial section, would attend the Enumclaw School District and thus district officials stated that the commercial section of the community should be in the same district. The idea therefore being that the taxes on revenue from the proposed commercial developments would go to the Enumclaw School District instead of Tahoma.

The piece of property is not currently, and isn’t projected to ever, be home to any students.

The regional committee oversees all land transfer requests and acts as mediator when districts have a dispute about boundary lines.

At the public hearing Oct. 3 both districts presented their arguments for and against the transfer and citizens also had the opportunity to voice their opinion on the proposed transfer.

Enumclaw’s presentation included the argument that with the potential addition of more than 3,000 new students related to the proposed master planned developments, the revenue from the proposed commercial developments would help the district provide for students and could also be a selling point when the district tries to pass construction bonds. Another point district representatives made was that city boundaries, urban growth area boundaries, and the MPDs should align.

Tahoma’s presentation argued that there are also Tahoma students who live in Black Diamond who have an equal relationship to any future development on the property, that the loss of revenue would negatively impact Tahoma students, and that the various boundary lines don’t have to match. The district representatives also argued that simply transferring property to gain revenue because it is near where students lives sets a precedent that would ultimately negatively impact students. Those who spoke on behalf of Tahoma also encouraged the committee to focus on the land as it is today, not based on speculation about the future.

“There are no students involved in this commercial growth,” said Tahoma School Board President Tim Adam during the meeting. “There’s no students involved, and that’s what we’re all in this game for. It’s all about proper education and the best education for our students … if students were involved, I’d have a different opinion (about the transfer), but they aren’t.”

Five community members, four who reside in the Tahoma School District and one who lives in the Enumclaw School District all spoke in opposition to the transfer during the public hearing portion of the meeting. No community members spoke in favor of the transfer.

Both districts filled out a questionnaire prior to the hearing and submitted it to the committee, the answers to which committee members reviewed and discussed after the public hearing closed.

In discussing the questions, committee members focused on the negative impacts of the transfer on Tahoma students, the fact that many territories cross boundaries, and the amount of speculation involved in trying to predict future growth and revenue.

“We’re obviously pleased with the decision,” said Tahoma School District spokesman Kevin Patterson. “It was our position from the beginning that the property should remain within the Tahoma School District and we feel that the evidence put forward by our district and by people who spoke to the board certainly confirmed that position. It’s really good that this is behind us now and we can turn our full attention back to educating kids.”


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