“Inglin” Property Conversion Information & Public Comment
The Pierce Conservation District is seeking public comment on a transaction that converts 0.12 acres of land from public to private ownership as part of a boundary line adjustment to resolve a disputed property line. Please see instructions at the end of this document for submitting public comment.
For the better part of four decades, the Inglin family operated a 100-acre dairy farm near the town of South Prairie in east Pierce County. Running through the property is South Prairie Creek and two tributaries. South Prairie Creek currently supports some of the strongest indigenous salmon runs in the Puyallup River system, and is considered a high-priority stream for habitat and salmon restoration efforts.
In 2005, the Pierce Conservation District (District) purchased the Inglin Dairy, in large part with funds from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (RCO grants 02-1584 and 04-1687), which is governed by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO). Between 2005-2008, banks of the mainstem and tributaries were planted with 200’ and 100’ buffers, respectively. Currently, a project to improve spawning habitat in the mainstem, recreate a 0.5-mile long remnant side channel, reconnect floodplains, and provide off-channel rearing and refuge habitat for salmon is in the final stages of design and permitting, with construction anticipated for 2019.
As part of this project, most of the remnant dairy structures and outbuildings will be removed. In the process of preparing for these demolitions, it was discovered that a property line bisected three outbuildings on a neighboring property to the east, and there was a discrepancy between the actual property line(s) and an old fence that all parties had treated as the property line. To resolve this issue, the District and neighboring landowner (Cornelius) agreed to a boundary line adjustment that officially adjusts the property line to match up with the existing old fence. In doing so, a net change of 5,363 sq. ft. of land from the District’s property was transferred to the Cornelius parcel. Cornelius has subsequently sold the property to a new owner.
RCO restrictions prohibit certain activities that are non-compliant with the terms of funding. Per RCO’s Manual 7, Long-Term Obligations, non-compliance includes conversion, which is determined when certain action(s) takes place that changes the intended use, whether affecting an entire site or any portion of a site funded by RCO.
The District’s preferred resolution to the property line discrepancy meets the following conversion definition: Property interests are conveyed for non-public outdoor recreation, habitat conservation, or salmon recovery uses. In other words, RCO restrictions prohibit the transfer of property purchased with salmon recovery funds for use other than salmon recovery.
RCO may approve a conversion as described above if other conservation land of at least equal fair market value and of as nearly as feasible equivalent qualities, characteristics and location for salmon recovery and conservation purposes will be substituted in the manner provided in WAC 286-12-080.
The District will complete the boundary line adjustment with Cornelius to resolve the property line discrepancy and avoid the potential for litigation related to adverse possession. The District has identified replacement property that will compensate for the 5,363 sq. ft. of the Inglin property that was transferred during the boundary line adjustment. This replacement property is located on South Prairie Creek near the Inglin project.
The proposed replacement property will provide habitat to support salmon recovery (or similar) and is a portion of a larger Stubbs property the District plans to acquire to support salmon recovery. The District has a pending grant to acquire the Stubbs property (RCO grant 16-1549). However, RCO grant funding cannot be used to acquire replacement property; therefore, the District will use other funds to purchase the proposed replacement.
Why It’s Important
Resolution of the property line discrepancy avoids potential litigation between the District and Cornelius and provides clarification for demolition of certain outbuildings included in the current salmon habitat restoration project (RCO grants 15-1224 and 16-1577).
Failure to replace the 5,363 sq. ft. of land lost in the boundary line adjustment with similar property will put the District out of compliance with RCO grant requirements and the original project agreement.
How It Would Be Achieved
The 5,363 sq. ft. of District property transferred to the Cornelius parcel as part of the boundary line adjustment is not adjacent to the nearby tributary stream, and was never intended for restoration activity due to its proximity to the Cornelius parcel and existing infrastructure, including a well house.
The District’s preferred resolution is to work with RCO to identify equivalent property within the Stubbs acquisition parcels to replace the 5,363 sq. ft. converted in the boundary line adjustment. The replacement property will be removed from the Stubbs acquisition purchase under RCO grant 16-1549 and handled separately to meet the conditions of the RCO conversion process.
We believe this to be the best way to meet the conversion requirements due to:
- the proximity of the Stubbs parcels to the converted land;
- the similarity in habitat value and other site characteristics between the Stubbs parcels and the converted land; and
- the relative quick resolution to this conversion since the Stubbs acquisition already has funding and a willing seller.
Alternative 1 – Do nothing. The fence line associated with the Cornelius parcel has been in place for a long time and was recognized by both parties as the assumed property line. To do nothing was not considered a feasible response for a number of reasons, including the fact that once the true property lines were made known, some of them ran directly through buildings scheduled for demolition as part of the salmon restoration project.
Alternative 2 – Legal action. A second alternative that was considered was to litigate the incorrectly sited fence line. Expected to be an involved legal process, the District did not believe this to be a good use of public funds and preferred to resolve the matter in a cooperative, non-antagonistic manner. Additionally, due to the long-standing nature of the fence, it is likely the rule of adverse possession would find in favor of Cornelius, not the District.
Alternative 3 – Seek appropriate replacement property elsewhere in the South Prairie Creek or mid-Puyallup River watershed. If the District is unable to use the Stubbs property to meet the conversion requirements, it will seek appropriate replacement land elsewhere, preferably in the South Prairie Creek watershed.
One alternative replacement is known as Vines. The Vines property is currently under application to RCO (18-1763) as an acquisition. If funded, the District will acquire nearly 40 acres of prime floodplain habitat along South Prairie Creek, upstream of the Inglin property. Minor restoration in the floodplain area will be achieved by removing invasive plants and installing native plant species.
Opportunities to partner on other salmon habitat acquisitions/projects being undertaken by partner entities would also be investigated. One such option is known as South Prairie Creek Acquisition and Design - Decker (RCO #16-1457). The applicant for this proposal is Forterra. The project would acquire approximately 15.5 acres along South Prairie Creek, downstream of the Inglin property, and conduct a preliminary restoration design to improve in-stream habitat and riparian vegetation on the site.
In the case that Vines, Decker, or any other appropriate replacement property is selected, the District will utilize non-RCO funds to resolve the conversion requirement and meet the conditions of the RCO conversion process.
Please submit comments on the proposed resolution to the conversion of 5,363 square feet of the Pierce Conservation District’s “Inglin” property to private ownership as a result to a boundary line adjustment. The public comment period closes on June 29, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.
Public comments must be made in writing or email and submitted to:
Submit your Comments Here
Jayme Gordon, Pierce Conservation District
Habitat Improvement & Environmental Education Program Director
308 W. Stewart Ave.
P.O. Box 1057
Puyallup, WA 98371