Process started to claim surplus Fort Lawton property

A scramble to stake a claim to surplused military property at Fort Lawton has begun, and residents in the surrounding community by Discovery Park have already expressed concerns about the changes coming to their community.

The decision to shut down the 38-acre Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center was made in 2005 as part of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act, and the military gets first dibs on any of the property, according to Linda Cannon, deputy director of the city's Office of Intergovernmental Relations.

In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs has already requested that it be given one of the newer buildings at the northwest corner of the base, Cannon said.

As for the rest of the property, priority will given to housing and services for the homeless, along with public-benefit conveyances that might see the property turned over to Seattle Parks and Recreation, Cannon said. Furthermore, if there is property left over, it could be sold off to private developers, she added.

The city has stepped in to act as a Local Reuse Authority (LRA) to help determine who gets what, Cannon said of an arrangement that the mayor and the city council have both approved. "Being the LRA put us in the middle of the federal process." But the federal government will have the final call on the disposition of the base property, she said.

Already the city has published ads in the Daily Journal of Commerce and The Seattle Times seeking Notices of Interest (NOI) from organizations interested in the property. Deadline for the NOIs is Jan. 10 next year, but there will be a Sept. 26 workshop at Fort Lawton for applicants who will be given a tour and informed of land-use issues and information on the NOI process, according to a fact sheet the city has issued.

There will also be the first of a series of public meetings about Fort Lawton in October. "The military has an interest in public reaction (to reuse plans)," Cannon explained.

Providing services or housing for the homeless could involve new construction on the base or retrofitting the existing buildings, said Maureen Kostyack, development and program manager for the city's Office of Housing. "We have walked the buildings, but we haven't done a financial analysis to upgrade them," she added.

Organizations that serve the homeless have to jump through quite a few hoops to be accepted, according to Kostyack. "We want to see budgets to determine the feasibility both for the development and the operators."

Seattle is part of King County's 10-year plan to end homelessness, but there are some limits to what can be done at Fort Lawton, she said. For example, setting up a tent city on the land won't be allowed because it doesn't meet the federal surplus requirements that the facility be used in perpetuity, Kostyack said.

Providers of housing and services for the homeless will also receive special notice about the Fort Lawton land. "We are advised to send written notices to appropriate homeless-services organizations advising them this property is available," Cannon said. "HUD (Housing and Urban Development) reviews the mailing list to make sure we're not missing anyone," Kostyack added.

Seattle Parks and Recreation isn't exactly rolling in dough these days, but the agency still has a chance to add part of the Fort Lawton property to Discovery Park, according to Cannon. "Any applicant who applies ... and is accepted can receive the property for up to a 100-percent discount," she said.

The army cemetery at Fort Lawton is currently in the mix of surplus property, but Cannon said she believes it would remain in Army hands.

The Army will look at the reuse plan, and if all the property isn't taken, the remainder would be put up for sale at fair-market value, Cannon said of an area that's zoned Single Family 7200.

Selling off part of the property could be an attractive option because the Army needs money for a new facility at Fort Lewis, where the reserve center is scheduled to move, according to Cannon. "They're currently in a tight budget."

Nearby residents have already gotten wind of the surplus process at Fort Lawton, and it's clear what they would like to see happen, according to an Aug. 31 letter sent to the city by Christine Atkins, a contact for the Thirty-Sixth St. Neighborhood Team.

"The neighborhood residents want to see the land of the Fort Lawton Army Reserve be assumed by the Seattle Park Department, who will continue to expand the unique wildlife corridor already established (between Kiwanis Ravine and Discovery Park)," the letter states.

Cannon said she understands the concerns. "I think anytime you do something like this in an established residential area ... there is going to be a balance," she said. "You know, these are actions that affect not only the immediate neighborhood, but the whole community."[[In-content Ad]]