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Stalled talks force Beaverton School Districts hand

Board votes to exercise eminent domain option on property for new high school

The potential presented by Metro's recent addition of 535 acres to the urban growth boundary in the Cooper Mountain area is not lost a whit on Beaverton city and school district officials.

While the city looks forward to the possibility of 3,500 housing units in the area, the Beaverton School District is already making moves toward land that could accommodate a new high school for 2,200 students.

School board members voted Tuesday night to use the district's authority of eminent domain to acquire a 30.7-acre parcel of the Metro-designated land that sits north of Southwest Scholls Ferry Road near Roy Rogers Road.

The landowners, represented by the Harold Ward Revocable Living Trust and the Residuary Credit Shelter Trust, expressed a willingness to sell the farmland. However, after months of negotiations involving outside legal counsel, land trust representatives and their counsel could not agree upon a price the district considered 'reasonable and fair' for the undeveloped property.

While both the property owner's and school district's appraisals were aligned, the Ward Trust continued to set an asking price at what the property could be worth in the future, Deputy Superintendent Ron Porterfield told the board Tuesday night.

'We're asking the board to approve the use of the district's eminent domain authority to resolve the difference in value,' Porterfield said. 'Our hope is to continue to negotiate and reach a fair and equitable price for not only the Beaverton School District, but the trust as well.'

Board members said they don't take the eminent domain authority lightly, but felt all other avenues had been exhausted.

'It's difficult to put this forth,' said Board Chairwoman LeeAnn Larson.

Yet necessary, added Board member Tom Quillin, noting the gap between asking price and appraised value is too wide. Agreeing to the asking price, he said, would be a 'disservice to our taxpayers and the community.'

'The school district wants to pay a fair price, and I hope we can come to terms to meet the needs of our students,' Quillin said following the board's unanimous decision.

With most district schools at or near full capacity, the district - based on projected growth patterns in the northwest and southwest quadrants - earmarked funds from its 2006 general obligation bond for a new high school.

Determining a parcel of about 40 acres would accommodate complete curriculum and extra-curricular needs, the district evaluated 25 properties before settling on the Ward property, which combined with a smaller adjacent parcel for a total of 45 acres.

The district is obligated to go through another formal appraisal and offer process before the eminent domain purchase can be finalized.

Beaverton city officials, meanwhile, have set their sights on remaining parcels from the 535 acres Metro has proposed to bring into the Urban Growth Boundary.

Mayor Dennis Doyle hailed the land's potential to the city as well as school district in his 2012 State of the City address.

'This land will provide Beaverton with room to grow,' he said. 'It will also support a much-needed high school, which is crucial to the Beaverton School District. And, it will support up to 3,500 housing units, all of which will have the added benefit of supplying new construction and permanent jobs for Beaverton.'

Community Development Director Don Mazziotti concurred the growth boundary expansion is crucial to the city's future growth.

'It's extremely important that this land be brought into the UGB for the simple reason that we are out of developable land,' he said, noting the 18 percent population growth in the past decade. 'Let's say we grow half that' in the next decade. 'It's very important for our ability to absorb the natural population growth.'