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Alley effort stalls at easement

Hoping to 'clean up the alley' between Second and Third streets in Lake Oswego, city officials have hit a snag.

A small, 6-by-10 foot easement near the northwest corner of the Shell station at A Avenue has become a hurdle in the city's effort to finish fixing up the alley.

The easement is needed because the city plans to install a transformer at that spot. The city has already installed underground connection vaults in several other parts of the alley, but it still needs Shell's and the property owner's permission to finish work on the easement next to the Shell station.

The transformers and connection vaults are needed to complete an electrical undergrounding project.

'This is the remaining link for us to underground all the power' in the alley, said Bob Galante, the city's redevelopment director.

Wayne Wood, the contractor on the project, said he constructed the transformer 'pad' on the Shell property, with the assumption that the city had received the property owner's permission.

Apparently, that was not the case.

'It's unfair to blame us for something the city failed to do,' said Wood.

Galante said it was an unfortunate case of miscommunication.

Shell has asked the city to pay $25,000 for the value of the easement, said Galante. The property is leased to Shell, and owned by Harry Coleman III, Galante said. Galante said Coleman may also charge the city for the easement.

The city feels that $25,000 is too high a price - about three times more than the property is worth.

The purpose of the project is to reduce the power lines over the alley.

'We decided to pursue cleaning up the alley, making it better for vehicles and pedestrians and giving it more character,' said Galante.

Several businesses have doors for customers facing the alley, such as Graham's Stationery, the Lake Oswego Review/West Linn Tidings and Paradigm Salon.

Shell owns about 75 percent of the 6-by-10 foot easement, while the other 25 percent is owned by the Review and Tidings' parent company, Community Newspapers.

Galante said the city needed six easements and received five of them from other businesses along the alley. The other five property owners granted the easements without asking for money.

The transformers cannot be directly under the alley, which forced the city to require the easements.

He said the undergrounding project was designed to coincide with the city's plan to re-pave the alley.

'We thought we would piggy-back on that project and restore the alley to an improved condition,' he said. He said the alley paving was not in good condition.

The re-paving and undergrounding also coincides with early planning for a development by Drew Prell called 470 Second, which will face Second Street and the alley.

Galante said the undergrounding project will open up the alley, because the utility poles have 'encroached' on the 20-foot-wide alley.

Now, the city must consider its options - whether to meet Shell's asking price or negotiate.

'At this point, we're going to go back to the council and ask what to do,' said Galante.