Forest Grove isn't alone in its quandary over Gales Creek land

When it comes to land-use issues cropping up on a public school district's radar, Forest Grove isn't alone.

Questions over whether property deeded to the local district 148 years ago would revert back to the heirs of the donors if Gales Creek Elementary School closed are, it turns out, not altogether unprecedented.

When Bull Run Elementary School in Sandy, Ore., closed and consolidated with Firwood and Cottrell elementary schools in 2003, the land was returned to Portland General Electric, which had donated the property in 1923.

PGE officials had stipulated that the acreage be used as a school, said Julia Monteith, communications director for the Oregon Trail School District. The former Bull Run School building now sits empty.

Higher education in Oregon is facing a land-use quandary similar to the one in Gales Creek.

The Oregon University System provides its chancellor, George Pernsteiner, with the use of an 8,111-square-foot mansion in Eugene, a home that was donated in 1938 by a wealthy merchant.

The deed stipulates that the house must be used 'solely as a place of actual residence' by the chancellor, or else revert to the merchant's heirs. However, Pernsteiner keeps another home in Portland due to professional demands.

As the State Board of Higher Education prepares to consider reorganizing the chancellor's office, Oregon courts will probably have to decide if the current use of the house meets the deed's requirements.

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