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Moving the police station

Council green-lights property acquisition for new police station
by: SUBMITTED PHOTO The West Linn Police Department’s proposed future station would sit on 1.7 acres off Willamette Falls Drive at Eighth Avenue and 13th Street. Four properties in all, the proposed site follows the West Linn City Council’s decision Monday to move the force into a new public safety building, contingent on voter approval of a bond measure in November.

A new police station is back in the city of West Linn's plans following the council's move to buy four properties in the Willamette neighborhood for a new public safety building.

The city council on Monday gave a green light to a proposal to buy two properties on Eighth Avenue and two on 13th Street for a total of $1.45 million - about $10,000 less than their combined appraised values.

The purchases are contingent on voter approval of a bond measure in November. If that measure fails, the city wouldn't have to buy the land but would give up $40,000 in earnest money to the property owners.

A tentative agreement also allows one of the property owners to continue living in or renting out two houses for about one year. Natalie Miller, who owns the two properties on 13th Street, could remain on the premises through June 30, 2012, according to the deal. The city would pay her $600,000 for 1819 and 1849 13th St. - about $90,000 more than their appraised values.

The other two properties, including 1800 Eighth Ave. and adjacent vacant land, are appraised at $950,000. The city would pay Willamette Capital Investments $850,000 for those properties.

'It was a pleasure working with all of the property owners,' said Kirsten Wyatt, communications director and assistant city manager. 'I think they all love West Linn and seem to recognize the need for the city to complete this deal and move forward.'

The council voted unanimously to move ahead with the plan after meeting privately in recent months to discuss sensitive property negotiations. A community meeting will be held June 20 for the public to weigh in.

'They want to hear issues, questions and concerns about the location,' Wyatt said. 'Also, it's a two-way street: We'll be sharing a lot of the information that led the council to make this decision.'

The latest decision follows years of failed efforts to find a suitable site and fund a new police station.

The latest work stems from a citizen task force, which spent months analyzing potential sites before recommending a new plan to the council last December. The group's suggestion whittled down a list of 16 possibilities to four, with two identified as the top recommendations: 1800 Eighth Ave., and 3332 Parker Road, which the city bought when planning for a new police station last year.

The task force believed a station could be built at either Eighth Avenue or Parker Road for $8.9 million - including land acquisition - which was about $2 million less than a bond measure that failed in May 2010.

The new station would replace the existing one on Willamette Drive. That building, built in the 1930s to house city hall, a post office and a market, doesn't meet modern building codes or rules requiring seismically safe buildings for emergency responders. The location is also too small to expand or remodel, according to the city, which owns only what is within the building's footprint. The West Linn Paper Co. owns the parking lot and surrounding property.

As for the Parker Road site the city bought in its last pitch for a new public safety facility, Wyatt said that space has also long been eyed for a recreation center.

'It is still the city's intention to work through a public process related to the use of that property, knowing full well it is the No. 1 goal and recommendation of (another citizen task force) to someday locate a recreation center there,' she said.

What's next?

A public conversation about police station plans is set for 6 p.m. June 20 at city hall, 22500 Salamo Road.