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A gift for Edmonds: Donated 1-acre site on will be used for a park or public garden


Last updated 11/4/2021 at 5:23pm

Brian Soergel

This 1-acre property on Bowdoin Way was donated to the City of Edmonds.

Empty lots for sale in Edmonds quickly fall to hungry developers, but there's one on Bowdoin Way that's off-limits, thanks to a generous gift from a longtime resident.

Before she died in January, Shirley A. Johnson (nee Spicer) worked to donate her 1.14-acre property at 9309 Bowdoin Way to the City of Edmonds to be used as a park or community garden to cultivate and grow plants, fruits, vegetables for the citizens of Edmonds and the local community as the City deemed best.

"It's a fantastic parcel," said Parks Director Angie Feser. "It's an incredibly generous donation."

That it is.

The property, which connects to Yost Park, has a market value of $1.5 million. It's zoned single-family, and has the potential for up to six lots. It now has Johnson's 1925 house in disrepair, set back from the street and shrouded by fruit trees and tangled blackberry vines.

Johnson lived by herself and had outlived her husband and son.

The City met with Johnson in the past to purchase the property through a lifetime estate agreement, but negotiations came to an impasse with the onset of COVID and the departure of former Parks Director Carrie Hite. It was Hite who suggested connecting Johnson with a law firm to assist with drafting a will and developing a plan.

Now the deal is done, as councilmembers approved it Sept. 21.

The City incurs outstanding expenses of $46,532 in back taxes, title insurance, and attorney fees

The City will next possibly demolish the existing structures, assess personal items, and take an inventory of the site's trees.

Historically this property was run as a farm in the city by Johnson's parents, Charles and Helen Spicer; Johnson inherited the parcel in 2007. Overgrown and poorly maintained for years, there are a number of remnant fruit trees that the City will assess for viability and attempt to preserve and integrate into future use.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson can attest to Shirley Johnson's goodwill and has been involved with the property transfer for the past four years.

Brian Soergel

Shirley Johnson lived in this house, owned by her family, for years. The house will likely be demolished as the City decides how to proceed with the donated property.

"Shirley Johnson was my next-door neighbor when I was growing up," she said. "Now there are about a dozen houses between us. She outlived her son and her husband and had no other relatives except a nephew. She did not want to sell her property to developers; it was her wish to preserve her family's farm."

The councilmember said the outbuildings once were essentially chicken coops, as the family had an egg-laying business. People would stop by to buy them.

"It was part of my childhood experience," Johnson said, "so I was really happy when I was able to help Shirley envision (the property) as a donation because she couldn't figure out exactly how to save her land."

According to Washington state law, "Every city and town by ordinance may accept any money or property donated, devised, or bequeathed to it, and carry out the terms of the donation, devise, or bequest, if within the powers granted by law. If no terms or conditions are attached to the donation, devise, or bequest, the city or town may expend or use it for any municipal purpose."

The terms are there, and Edmonds welcomes the open space.


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