- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) - Gerald Petersen expected top dollar for his 167-acre spread in Clear Creek valley, but also wanted to keep it a working farm. The conflicting objectives left the property in limbo for six years after the 94-year-old died in 2009.

More than 50 people last weekend finally celebrated a solution that provides the best of both worlds.

“All my life I can remember having this dilemma,” Dorothy Lind, niece of Gerald and Dorothy Petersen, said of the dichotomy, during the celebration at the farm. “He always wanted to keep it a working farm, but this property is worth $10 million. We felt we got top dollar, but top dollar with an easement.”

Lind worked with the Great Peninsula Conservancy and other organizations to put the conservation easement in place. The group received a $255,000 federal grant and led a community campaign that raised $400,000 to purchase the easement and prevent development of 115 acres. The remaining land couldn’t be included because there’s a limit on the amount that can be timber, Lind said.

DJ Cattle & Land LP of Port Orchard bought 155 of the 167 acres in August for about $1.7 million. The company plans to run cattle and harvest timber there. About 76 percent of the sale price will benefit charities named by Petersen. The final 12-acre parcel abuts Silverdale Way and will be sold separately.

The newlywed Petersens bought the farm in 1948. They operated a dairy there until 1970 and raised grass-fed cattle from 1970 until 2009. The property now includes parts of three 1890s homesteads. Two turn-of-the-century farmhouses remain. The Petersens’ probably can’t be saved, said Lind, who led a short tour. The former Levin family home, which never was plumbed or wired, might be restorable, and possibly a big old barn.

Several people spoke during the celebration, after which a donor plaque was dedicated.

“The legacy of Petersen Farm continues because of the passion of the local community for preserving local farm heritage, the determination of the Petersen Estate to keep the land a working farm, and the conservation leadership of Great Peninsula Conservancy,” the plaque reads. “Today, 115 acres of the farm are protected by land restrictions that will protect forever the farmland and Clear Creek.”

It lists dozens of individuals and groups that contributed $500 or more.

Petersen’s will stated he strongly desired to keep the property a working farm, but it wasn’t stipulated, said Lind, who handled the childless Petersen’s affairs.

Scott and Peggy Hall, of Olalla, were friends of Petersen, helped maintain the farm before his passing and later managed the property for the estate, while aiding with the conservation easement effort. They said Petersen wrote in his will that he wished to see his property sold “as a whole and as a working farm,” and that the land would be marketed at a discounted price so a farmer could make a living there.

Petersen’s nephew, Bob Epley of Olympia, was offended that some community members depicted the family as greedy.

“We gave up a lot, a great deal of money to have this (agricultural) use, and we ain’t rich folks,” he said. “You in Kitsap County should be darn happy you got what you got.”

Lind said the property will change. Logging of huge fir trees will occur, but that was expected no matter who bought it. The new owners must enter into a forest stewardship plan.

“The bottom line here is it will still be a farm,” she said. “You will not see a shopping mall here. You will not see condos.”

The farm is the second-largest in Kitsap County, said Brian Stahl of Kitsap Conservation District. There are 2,500 farms in the county covering 19,000 acres.

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Information from: Kitsap Sun, https://www.kitsapsun.com/


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