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Condemnation case heads to court

FOREST GROVE -- Judge could hear preliminary arguments on Dec. 20 if no deal is reached

Forest Grove City Manager Michael Sykes said Monday that the city has been unable to come to an agreement with the owners of a parcel of land that the city hoped to buy.

In an effort to avoid condemnation proceedings, the two sides agreed to spend a day in mediation, but were unable to come to an agreement on the value of the property.

'It was a lot of effort and unfortunately there was no resolution,' Sykes told members of the city council during their meeting Monday.

Last year Hally and Jennie Haworth purchased a 140-acre tract of land that the city had tried to purchase months earlier.

City officials had long eyed the land, at the south end of Elm Street, across Highway 47, for recreation uses.

After the Haworths bought the parcel for $1.65 million in August 2005, the city made them an offer of $1.9 million which was rejected. The city council then authorized staff to begin condemnation proceedings last October.

Last week, the Haworths sent a letter to members of the city council complaining that Sykes and Paul Downey, the city's finance manager, were 'bullying' them.

City officials won't comment on the pending case or the mediation efforts. Downey said no further mediation sessions are scheduled, 'though either side can make another offer at any time' before trial starts on Dec. 20.

To condemn the property, the city would first need to convince a judge that it had a legitimate public purpose for the land, according to Andy Jordan, the city attorney. Then, he said, a jury would have to decide whether the city or the Haworths were most accurately placing a value on the property.

The city has an appraisal which pegs the value at $1.9 million. The Haworths hired their own appraiser, Zell and Associates, which estimated that as farmland, the property is worth $2.7 million. But as park land, the appraiser said, the property value jumps to $4.8 million.

Hally Haworth, who was not at Monday night's council meeting, said Tuesday morning that he was willing to talk.

'Sounds like we may be waiting on them and they may be waiting on us. Maybe I should make a call.'