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Metro backs off plan to buy Blue Heron site

Bankruptcy trustee will consider bids for Oregon City property
by: raymond rendleman The future of Blue Heron property in Oregon City is in limbo until a winning bid is determined by a bankruptcy trustee.

Metro officials have decided not to place a formal bid on the Blue Heron mill site near Willamette Falls, opting instead to file a letter of interest with the trustee of the bankrupt facility.

Bankruptcy trustee Peter McKintrick said he plans to have continued discussions and 'at least one other interested party' and get the sale resolved 'as soon as possible' but declined to give more specifics on the number of potential buyers or an expected timeline.

'When and if we have a sale that is agreed to, there would have to be a public hearing, but again, there's no specific timeline for that,' McKintrick said.

Metro's strategy hasn't been used before, said Jim Desmond, director of the agency's sustainability center and head of its natural areas acquisition program. But, he said, Willamette Falls is a unique site, with unique challenges, and that's made it hard to even begin to guess what the site is worth.

Bids were due Wednesday, Dec. 14, for the mill property, on the south shore of the Willamette in downtown Oregon City.

The Blue Heron property has been an industrial site for more than 170 years, and Metro officials are concerned about how much environmental cleanup the agency would be responsible for if it purchased the site. Desmond said the agency also wants to know about the stability of the site, parts of which rest on concrete pilings that may be a century old.

Metro would not release the letter because it contained information about real estate negotiations. But staff said the letter explains the public partnership interested in the site, outlines the variables that Metro thinks would impact the site's value, explains that the agency doesn't want to obstruct private investment at the site and says the agency wants to continue researching a potential purchase.

In September, Metro and other agencies, including the state, Clackamas County and Oregon City, began discussing whether to use money from Metro's 2006 natural areas bond measure to buy the site. Bids were originally set to be due in October, but that deadline was extended.

The project's partners have focused on improving access to the falls, restoring habitat, highlighting the cultural history of the site and spurring economic development as the core goals of the project.

Nick Christensen writes news stories about Metro for the regional government. His stories are not altered by Metro officials.