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Tualatin eyes school property for rec center

The first of two public opinion surveys will ask residents what they do for recreation in Tualatin
by: Jaime Valdez, OPEN LAND — The undeveloped 10 acres behind the new Tualatin Elementary School on 95th Avenue is not the only option being considered by city officials looking for a site for a recreation center in Tualatin.

TUALATIN - It could just be wishful thinking, but Tualatin city officials are asking anyway.

Does the Tigard-Tualatin School District have any land that the city could use in a partnership as the site for a recreation/community center?

And more specifically, does the school district have any plans for the 10 acres along 95th Avenue just north of the new Tualatin Elementary School?

The answer to the latter question, as of right now, is 'no,' said Superintendent Rob Saxton.

But city officials shouldn't get their hopes too high. While the land is currently vacant with no immediate plans for development, a few snags still exist.

First of all, as school district property, the land has to be used for some sort of educational use. Second, a simple partnership with the city for joint use of a facility may or may not fulfill that requirement.

And lastly, the property on 95th Avenue, known as the North Avery property, was obtained by the school district on Feb. 14, 2000, by eminent domain proceedings. The district used about half of the 20 acres during the construction of the new Tualatin Elementary School.

And according to Oregon state statutes, if the school district does not use the existing 10-acre property within 10 years, the district has to offer the property back to the original owner for a price equal to the sum of the compensation and damages paid by the condemner plus interest at the rate of 7 percent per year from the date of the condemnation.

But while all the discussion among city officials thus far has concentrated on the North Avery site, City Manager Sherilyn Lombos said the city is interested in talking about any property the district could offer.

City and district officials were set to meet today (Thursday) to talk about a possible partnership. A partnership between the two could be beneficial for both.

The city could get the use of land without actually having to pay for it, keeping the costs down for a possible bond measure in November. And the school district could get the use of a multi-million dollar facility.

'We want the school district to come to the table and play, but if they don't, then (the city) will just have to look for what's available (as far as land),' Lombos said.

But even without a definite site for a recreation center to be constructed, city officials are already launching a public-involvement process.

The first of two public opinion surveys will get underway next week and will focus on asking residents what recreational activities they like to do in Tualatin and how much they are willing to pay for a recreation facility. The results of that survey should be compiled and presented to the city by the end of the month, Lombos said.

Monday night the Tualatin City Council approved the creation of an ad hoc committee to study a possible November 2008 bond measure for parks and recreation facilities, cultural opportunities, and youth and family activities relating to the Tualatin Tomorrow community visioning process. The 21-member committee will include three Youth Advisory Council members, three Tualatin Organization of Sports members and three city councilors - Jay Harris, Monique Beikman and Chris Barhyte.

A second community survey is expected to be conducted in the spring near the end of the study to gauge public opinion and support for the facilities and funding under final consideration.

The study process, according to a city staff report, will cost between $90,000 and $100,000 and will be funded through the park development fund with park system development fees. The study's costs could be reimbursed by a future bond measure that funds the related facilities.