Nearly 600 people from as far away as New Jersey have signed an online petition urging Fife to abandon its plan to sell a historic farm site donated to the city for use as a park.
What leaves Fife officials puzzled is that the city hasn’t put the land up for sale and has no plans to do so.
“I’m befuddled,” Fife City Manager Sabir Mukerjee said. “We’ve had no discussion about selling the land.
“I checked with the city attorney, who has been here longer than I have, and he too is puzzled.”
The change.org petition proclaims: “The elderly Cappa sisters wanted to protect their farm from greedy developers so they donated their entire property to the city for a public park. Now the city is quietly preparing to cash in and intends to renege on that commitment to protect their legacy, without any public process or transparency.”
A former Fife parks director, Michael Lafreniere, said he initiated the petition. He left the Fife job about a decade ago and is now retired.
Lafreniere, who is also active in the movement to block the construction of a $3.4 billion methanol plant on Port of Tacoma land, said he heard from a Fife city councilman that the council had privately discussed selling or swapping the Cappa farm land for land nearer the city center. He declined to name the councilman.
Lafreniere said he was told that a possible customer would be the Fife School District, which needs a new location to maintain its fleet.
But Fife assistant superintendent Ben Ramirez said Wednesday that he knew of no plans for the district to buy or swap land for the Cappa Farm property.
Several prominent Pierce County residents have signed the online petition including Tacoma historian Michael Sullivan and state Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma.
Sullivan said he learned after signing that the land was not on the market. But he remains concerned about the continuing disappearance of farms in the Puyallup River Valley.
Darneille said she too wants to ensure that some of the farming heritage remains and that the Puyallup Valley near Fife not become wall-to-wall warehouses.
“The farms were an important part of our heritage,” she said. “I think that’s what the sisters realized when they decided to donate the property.”
The land, which is in four separate adjoining parcels, is located south of busy Pacific Highway East and north of Interstate 5. The tract is east of the Puyallup tribal cancer care center and west of a car dealership. Pierce County assessed the value at more than $3 million.
The city would face considerable hurdles in selling or trading the land. The resolution accepting the donation from the Cappa sisters specifically requires that the tract be used as a city park after the last Cappa sister dies.
“She has a life estate to continue living on that land,” said Mukerjee, the city manager.
Lafreniere said he is concerned that the city has yet to develop a plan to create a park on that land. Mukerjee said such a plan will happen in due course when the tract becomes available to the city for redevelopment into parkland.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663