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Cove families will be paid to move out

Successful mediation guarantees each homeowner payment of $8,500 for relocation costs

Game over.

The end.

Curtain call.

Finally.

After more than a year in the spotlight, the key players in the Willamette Cove drama have reached their final agreement.

Recently, Cove residents, as well as landowner Jerry Jennings and the city of West Linn signed a settlement agreement which states that Jennings will pay $8,500 to the owners of each manufactured home that was on his West Linn property in December 2005, when eviction notices were sent.

'I'm just happy everybody is happy,' said Jennings. 'We worked hard to get everything done.'

Residents will get money

The agreement states that Cove residents who have sold or moved their manufactured home since Dec. 2, 2005 have 90 days to request their termination payment of $8,500, and Jennings will pay within 30 days of the request.

Residents who are still living on the property can request their payment from Jennings when they move or sell their house, and Jennings will pay 30 days after that request.

Jennings also was scheduled to sign an addendum to the agreement Wednesday, after Tidings' press time.

The addendum states that Cove residents who abandon their home when the park closes in December are still eligible to receive $8,500. But they must request payment from Jennings by Dec. 10 and provide Jennings with a signed release so that Jennings can become the home's owner and sell or dispose of it.

The plot thickens

Jennings sent eviction notices in December 2005, giving Cove residents one year to vacate West Linn's only manufactured home park. While the elderly Cove residents own their houses, they do not own the land beneath them.

Within the past nine months, one-half of the 65 manufactured homes on the property have been moved and the residents have fought for compensation for their inconvenience. Most homes that remain on the property are sold, but residents who still reside within Willamette Cove are obligated to pay rent to Jennings as long as they live there.

As long as the residents follow provisions of the agreement, they will receive payment from Jennings. And if Jennings complies with the agreement, a punitive ordinance drafted by the city likely would not return to its agenda.

The ordinance states that the owner of a manufactured home park who closes the park and evicts tenants would be required to pay the cost of relocation or purchase the tenants' homes.

'The city had to sign the agreement, meaning they won't pass the ordinance. They could (approve the ordinance) later on, but there are no other manufactured home parks, and if Jennings carries out his obligation (they) shouldn't need to,' said West Linn City Manager Chris Jordan.

All rental agreements will be terminated and Cove residents must be moved from the property when the park closes Dec. 10.

Willamette Cove is planned to become a housing development for 71 single-family homes, although some West Linn citizens are hoping to halt progress and conduct more studies of the area.

As redevelopment of the Cove property begins, Jennings will be eligible for $62,000 in System Development Charge credits from the city, which could lower the amount of fees he has to pay, assuming he follows provisions of the agreement.

Last summer, Jennings was offered $9.8 million from a local developer for the Cove property. Residents rallied and fought to keep their homes - often by waving picket signs and lobbying the state Legislature.

Residents offered a little more than $5 million to buy the land, on which their homes sit and operate Willamette Cove as a cooperative, but Jennings refused the offer.

In July 2005, the developer withdrew his $9.8 million offer.

Since then, Jennings has paid for mediation talks between Cove residents, himself and the city to reach an agreement, said Mary Ann Wersch, who has served as the Cove's representative in recent mediation.

'I think there is great relief that there is some compensation and some help and support. There is a general consensus that the city has been supportive,' said Wersch. 'Although it's been difficult, there is a sense of gratitude that Mr. Jennings has agreed to do this.'