Forestville Downtown Park History

The following is a brief summary of the journey to the Town’s success.

Although the original goal was to acquire 8 acres for a downtown open space park, in the end we were successful in getting four protected acres which will preserve the oak grove and lower wetlands, allow for the completion of the West County trail and trailhead, and establish a Town Square — a comfortable outdoor place for Forestvillians to gather, to hold the Town’s traditional Holiday Tree lighting celebration, and to continue to provide overflow parking for downtown businesses.

On the Property, facing south.

The Forestville Planning Association (FPA) Board believes this is a win/win situation for Forestville. We will have our large Downtown Park; we will also have some adjacent commercial development which will enhance the Town’s economic vitality as well as provide neighbors to the Park for safety and maintenance purposes.

The commercial area will make a bookend to the Park, making it more in the actual center of Town’s activities, which perhaps even will draw even more people to use the Park.

Over the years, the undeveloped 8 acres in downtown Forestville have seen plans for development come and go. Among the proposals were a golf course, high-density housing, and recently a proposal for multiple Townhouses, combined with a huge commercial development, and a Town Square.

None of these proposals moved forward primarily because the Town resisted any plan that would inhibit use of the Property by the community. The last plan garnered community support for one singular reason: developer Orrin Thiessen promised a Town Square.

The Property has been used for decades by the Town. It has been the place of community gatherings such as the Holiday Tree Lighting, Town Socials, Business Expos and even a Farmer’s Market.

It has also served us well as overflow parking for the restaurants and businesses in town. To lose access to the Property would be a tremendous blow to the very fabric of the community and its identity.

The FPA took on the project of buying the land with backing from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.

At an FPA Town Meeting on June 27, 2012, all 75 participants endorsed the idea of an 8 acre Downtown Open Space Park and began brainstorming on how best the community might use the property.

On the Property, facing north toward downtown.

The FPA then submitted a proposal to the County Open Space and Agricultural Preservation District. On September 18, 2012, the County Board of Supervisors approved a $750,000 matching grant for the Forestville Planning Association towards the acquisition of the 8 acres. (Numerous local supporters came to this meeting, all wearing white — including Supervisor Carrillo, to show approval of the park.)

Subsequently, through mass mailings, email alerts, public signs, and conversations with many local individuals and organizations, the FPA started a fund-raising effort to meet the County Match.

In May, 2013, the FPA held a Town Meeting to report that it was close to meeting the match. While many people there came forward with additional donations, a small contingent of people objected to how the project was originally conceived.

One of the main objections to the land acquisition was the opinion that a portion of the land should be used for commercial/mixed use. Although there was no specific plan offered, those objecting to the Open Space Park preferred the concept of commercial development.

Other objections were the fear that the Town could not support two parks (i.e. this new park + the Youth Park) and the perception that the FPA was pursuing this project behind closed doors.

On the Property, facing west.

The final vote by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for the release of the Open Space funds had been scheduled for June 25, 2012. Because of the new and unexpected opposition, West County Supervisor Efren Carrillo pulled it from the board agenda. Since the property was already in escrow with Summit State Bank, an extension of escrow was required.

On June 26, Carrillo had a meeting with the FPA and 4 people who represented those objecting to the 8 acre open space project (the Forestville Locals Alliance – FLA).

Carrillo’s decision was for the FPA and the FLA to work out a compromise. Several meetings were held (under the good office of the Forestville Chamber of Commerce) and a compromise was reached.

Nevertheless, opposition continued, and the vote was still not brought to the Board of Supervisors. While Summit Bank had been patient with the process, they would not grant a further extension of escrow and the whole project was close to complete collapse.

In a final meeting called by Supervisor Carrillo, the FLA proposed a split of the property with a commercial partner — Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, owners of the Farmhouse Inn. With last minute scurrying, the FPA and the Bartolomeis were able to meet the escrow deadline and purchase the property.

On October 22, 2013, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted to fund the purchase of land in downtown Forestville for Open Space, an extension of the West County Trail and development of a real Town Square.

The final arrangement was for 4.2 acres (a combination of two parcels — see left) to fall under the Open Space agreement (a conservation easement in perpetuity for protected open space as well as for a Town Square, completion of the West County Trail and trailhead, + retention of downtown overflow parking).

The third parcel, 3.7 acres, can be used for commercial/mixed use development. The Bartholomeis, longtime Forestville residents, are very attuned to the Town’s needs and are eager to have the Town Square developed first before they design some tasteful commercial space that would blend with the Square.

The final papers were recorded on Friday, November 15, 2013.

Financing of Matching Grant and Purchase of Property:
On October 22, 2013, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors funded the purchase of Downtown Open Space Park with the Open Space District’s Matching Grant. The final papers were recorded on Friday, November 15, 2013.

FPA needed to raise Cash and In-Kind contributions towards that match, which was successful.

The In-Kind contributions included the following:

  • $300,000 In-Kind contribution from Sonoma County Regional Parks District for design and construction of the West County Trail through the Property.
  • $75,000 In-Kind contribution from Regional Parks District for West County Trail operation and maintenance over a five year period allowed by matching grant program.
  • $20,000 In-Kind contribution from Sonoma County Transit for construction of new and improved bus stop in Forestville.
  • Thousands of dollars worth of Human Capital (e.g. materials, supplies, labor, services) pledged by individuals and businesses. Some of these In-Kind donations were used in the process to acquire the land. The bulk of the In-Kind donations will go toward planning, designing, developing, landscaping, constructing, and years of maintenance for the Town Square and Open Space Park.

The acquisition and fixed costs (cash) for the property are below.

Table 1
Downtown Open Space Park & Commercial Land Acquisition Totals
Open Space Grant Payment for FPA – $400,300 (a)(c)
Commercial Group Payment – $416,218 (b)
FPA Payment – $ 93,120

Total Cost of 8 Acres with Final Fees – $909,638

FPA’s Total Expenditures – $110,656 (See Tables 2 & 3)

Table 2
Breakdown of FPA’s $93,120 (as seen in Table 1)
Opening of Escrow with Bank, April 2013 – $20,000
Additional Escrow Deposit, Aug. 2013 – $ 5,000
Additional Bank Deposit, Oct. 2013 – $10,000
Taxes, Nov. 2013 – $1933
Closing Escrow Fee, Nov. 2013 – $1800
Title Fee, Nov. 2013 – $642
Final Payment to Bank, Nov. 2013 – $53,745

Total of FPA’s Bank Payments – $93,120 (d)

Table 3
Fixed Expenditures by FPA
Broker Retainer Fee, Sept. 2012 – $5,000
Appraisal of Property, Nov. 2012 – $4,000
First Land Survey, Aug. 2013 – $3,584
Second Survey, Sept. 2013 – $1,548
Property Liability Insurance, Dec. 2013 – $706
Fundraising/Community Outreach, 2011-2013 – $2,348 (e)
Other Expenses2011-2013 – $350 (f)

Total of Fixed Expenditures – $17,536

NOTES
a) FPA was required to generate $400,300 in cash and in-kind donations for the Matching Grant. In-kind donations (including $395,000 from the county for completion, operation and maintenance of the West County Trail and a new bus stop) made up the difference between the cash raised and the $400,300.

b) The Commercial Group purchased the 1.5 acres of land the Town Square will occupy along with the its other 4 acres. They can commercially develop their 4 acres. The 1.5 acre Town Square land has a conservation easement which means there are Open Space restrictions on its development and it is guaranteed for public access and public use.

c) The Open Space Grant also paid for the conservation easement on the 1.5 acres of Town Square land.

d) If FPA had purchased the entire 8 acres, the closing costs would have been considerably higher and it would have been necessary to get a loan from the bank for $37,000 or more (depending on the amount of cash FPA could afford for the final payment at close).

e) Fundraising/Community Outreach — $2348, includes:
Ads in Chamber Mailer, Aug. 2012 – $378
Advertising Banners, March 2013 – $227
Postcards to Community, May 2013 – $1,100
Video for Site, May 2013 – $400
Color Maps of Property for Display – $243

f) Other Expenses — $350, includes:
Notary Fees, Nov. 2013 – $180
PayPal Fees – $170

Your further donations will support the development of the Park. You can donate Cash and/or In-Kind on our Downtown Park Donate page.

Cash donations are tax deductible; In-Kind donations may be tax-deductible – check with your tax preparer.

Pledges and donations which will receive signage at the site:
Founder Level – $25,000
Patron Level – $10,000
Friend Level – $5,000
Supporter Level – $1,000
FPA Tax ID#: 54-2107271

History of In-Kind and Cash contributions:

  • Sonoma County Parks and Recreation Department will design, create and maintain the continuation of the West County Trail through the property.
  • Sonoma County Parks and Recreation Department will build and maintain a parking area for the Trail.
  • In-kind contributions have been received for picnic tables and benches.
  • $1000 donated toward creation of a community garden.
  • $10,000 in-kind donation by the Bodean Company — gravel for upgrading current parking area.
  • In-kind contributions for architectural and design services by Ken Smith ($5000) and Jeff Blechel ($10,000).
  • The FPA also has $80,000 in cash pledges over the next 5 years to help develop and maintain the property.
Monthly
Board Meetings

• 1st Tuesday of mo.
• 5:30 – 7:30 PM
• Location:
Food For Thought
6550 Railroad Ave.
Forestville
(Railroad Ave. parallels
Front St. in downtown)
• For more info,
contact:
Board President,
Michael Cuoio
Everyone welcome.