Tales of the Tot Lot

The long history of the Tot Lot demands an uncommon level of attention and patience; I hope my good readers might bear with this convoluted tale about a tiny children’s playground in the heart of Whimsical Winslow.

The Tot Lot tale extends as far back as 1997, when Randy Varga sold the property to the City  with a “Declaration of Covenants, Restrictions and reciprocal Easements” which specified the property be preserved as a park.  He also called  for the preservation of a lovely art studio which I occupied rent-free as an artist-in-residence and caretaker–though my caretaking often fell short with all the demands of creating art.

It was a time when our last elected Mayor held a prominent position on the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council– though that detail is perhaps merely coincidental–after all, my significant other says I watch too many detective movies, and such things are only natural with all the demands of leadership and the equivocal nature of the greater good.

Despite the prohibitions clearly spelled out in the Declarations, outcry of concerned citizens, several emails citing restrictions, heated Parks Board meetings, and a front page article in the Kitsap Sun, the studio was destroyed in 2011, just two years after it was transferred to the good, art-promoting BIMPRD–or whatever they’re called.

In February of last year, a land swap was proposed where the playground would be traded for a lot half its size on the corner of the island’s busiest intersections.  Well, you can imagine the outcry of local, island mothers over that scenario.

Truth is, a big money developer had bought two properties adjacent the Tot Lot and wanted to realize a tidy profit by consolidation, and create a greater Wyatt Cottages.  Problem is, this is a greater good that mainly benefits said developer. .

So get this, the developer and Parks sign on as co-applicants to the Design Review Board for this swap which would grease the skids for this big money project on the homestead of Winslow’s founding father, Reilly Hoskinson, who settled it God knows when.  They fill out a legal form declaring there are no impediments to this swap, though–because of the brouhaha less than 5 years before–they obviously knew of the 1997 restrictions.

So I give Val Tollefson a copy of the restrictions and the Council halts the swap, reminding Parks of their obligation to honor terms of the transfer.

So the land swap was stopped when the City Attorney admonished the Council it was their obligation to compel Parks to abide by the terms of the transfer and honor the restrictions.  The Council then voted unanimously to record a conservation easement which would preserve the Tot Lot in perpetuity.

But then, Val Tollefson moved to delay the recording of the Conservation Easement while an access road was worked out between Laughlin, Parks, and the adjacent, Madison Cottages community. It seems the Madison Cottages folk decide it best to accommodate the access road because if the Wyatt Cottages proposal is not granted, a more intrusive and aesthetically disagreeable development might replace the good work of Cutler/Anderson Architects.

Point well taken, but too smacking of defeatist accommodation for me. And since the good folk of Madison Cottages represent a mere fraction of Park’s-going public, why should they have such disproportionate influence?

We await the announcement of the Wyatt Cottages proposal to the Design Review Board with a mixture of dread and anticipation. Will the concerned parties present accurate information this time around regarding the Declarations of Covenants, Restrictions and Reciprocal Easements–remember those?

This is but a sketch of a convoluted tale of intrigue. There remain such details as the erroneous reports by the County Assessor, a land value increase of nearly 80% the very year the property was transferred to Parks, the “disappearance” of the studio from the assessor’s building report 2 years before it was demolished, the miraculous appearance of a ghostly pole-frame building, mysterious address changes, and specious readings of legal terms.


This is the post excerpt.


  • 1997–Randy Varga sells Lot B (Tot Lot) to COBI with a “Declaration of Covenants, Easements and Restrictions,” calling for preservation of Park and art studio.
    2003–Jim Laughlin owns Hoskinson property, tries–unsuccessfully–to develop it over next 12 years.
    2005–Carol King buys Oliver House.
    2009 Lot B transferred to Parks department.
    Councilwoman Debbie Vancil and Mayor Darlene Kordonowy on Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council. Kordonowy on Executive Board, Economic Development District.
    Kitsap County Assessor’s Office reports no building–or use restrictions–on property.
    Land value jumps nearly 80%
    Address change from 590 to 598.
    2011–I’m Served notice to vacate studio by Parks attorney, Ryan Vancil.
    I find the 1997 declarations of Covenants, Easements and Restrictions.
    Meetings with Parks in order to save studio for public art space.
    Restrictions emailed to Parks.
    I email restrictions to Chuck Knobloch who forwards to ‘09 City Attorney.
    City Attorney says there is no merit to my claims.
    A group of citizens expressed disagreement with Park’s decision to demolish studio. The 1997 declarations were cited during, at least, 2 Parks Board meetings.
    Front page article in Kitsap Sun where Lande acknowledges the restrictions.
    Fall–Destruction of studio.
    2014– The 2014/15 tax report claims a non-existent, pole frame building.
    Address on tax report remains 598 while that of actual lot is changed back to 590.
    2015– January–Jim Laughlin buys Oliver House from Carol King. The ’97 restrictions accompany the sale deed.
    In an effort to connect Hoskinson and Oliver House properties, Laughlin/Burns present the design for Wyatt Cottages development to Design Revew Board with Parks as co-applicant. It is assumed the swap will occur. In the application, Laughlin and Burns declare there are no legal impediments to swap. COBI project manager Josh Machen says the land swap decision is not within the purview of the City.
    Outcry from citizens over swap.
    I give copy of ‘97 restrictions to Val Tollefson.
    City Attorney advises Council it is their obligation to enforce Parks adherence to 1997 use restrictions.
    Swap proposal withdrawn.
    Val promises Council will record conservation easement, which would preserve Tot Lot in perpetuity.
    In a sudden turnaround, the Council decides to ignore City Attorney’s advice and delay recording of conservation easement. They decide to leave disposal of easements to Parks, developer, and Madison Cottages community.
    At July Parks Board meeting, Lande denies knowledge of the restrictions when swap was proposed.
    “Plan B” to allow access road in order to connect Hoskinson & Oliver House properties.
    Continued negotiations on plan C–D?