The City of Monroe has begun the process of bringing the East Monroe property back into compliance with state zoning code.

The Monroe City Council approved what is likely to be the last extension of the interim ordinance, which has been readopted nearly twice a year since 2016. No residents spoke during last Tuesday’s public hearing.

The property has been out of compliance for the past two years. The Growth Management Hearing Board denied an appeal on the ruling in March.

For the last few months, the city had been deciding what type of zoning to pursue.

“Staff is moving forward to comply with the Growth Management Hearing Board by reaffirming the limited open space comprehensive plan zoning designation,” said Monroe Community Development director Ben Swanson. “So, that is moving through the process right now, but we still need this six-month interim zoning extension while we work through the process.”

Heritage Baptist first applied for a rezone of its property from limited open space into general commercial in 2010. Resident Lowell Anderson contested a related environmental study in 2012, and again the following year. About a half dozen other residents then joined Anderson in petitioning.

The state reviewed a 2015 environmental study and city ordinances adopted in 2016 that would have rezoned the land to general commercial. That same year the state’s Growth Management Hearing Board ruled the study and ordinances were not in compliance with state regulations. The appellate court denied Heritage Baptist’s motion to reconsider in April.

Staff began talks with Heritage Baptist Church and nonprofit Forterra to acquire the 43-acre site from the church earlier this year. While some of those involved have reservations, the city is steadily moving toward a resolution.

Seattle-based environmental nonprofit Forterra’s mission is to secure and preserve keystone lands for farmland and wilderness, especially along the Great Northern Corridor, which stretches about 70 miles from the Salish Sea to the end of the Sky Valley.

The city contacted the group to ask for a letter of support when applying for — and later receiving — a $500,000 Snohomish County Conservation Futures Board grant that would be put toward buying the property.

Another $1 million in funding through two state grants has already been applied for in order to purchase the property. The city will find out this month if the grants made the 2019 legislative recommended funding list, according to council documents.

The city can use real estate excise tax revenue to pay for its partnership with Forterra. The city’s comprehensive plan must be amended to use those funds.

Added charges, which include interest and opportunity fees, could range between $196,000 and $500,000. Those rates will be even higher, between $221,000 and $540,000, coupled with the standard purchase and sale agreement costs, according to city estimates.

“It does involve a little bit of risk,” said city administrator Deborah Knight in August.

She went on to say she believes it does result in a win-win for everyone involved, and a resolution to a long process that would come sooner than if the city tried to secure more grants over the next few years.

Councilmember Patsy Cudaback was concerned about the costs of the plan. Councilmember Kevin Hanford worried about the city taking on more land to manage, but councilmember Ed Davis said he was ready to see a resolution.

The city can work on an extension with Forterra if it can’t come up with grants to pay for the property within three years. The nonprofit will try to acquire the land by mid-November.