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City builds collection of properties near park

by: Sam Bennett, 
The historic Oregon Iron Co. Cottage at 40 Wilbur St. was one of four purchases near George Rogers Park the city made between 1972 and 2006.

Dating to the early 1970s, the city of Lake Oswego has made several property purchases near George Rogers Park.

The purchases range in price from $42,000 in 1972 to $1.1 million in 2006.

In response to Lake Oswego Review readers' comments last month, the city compiled a list of the properties and purposes for the purchases.

Several readers posted anonymous comments on the Review's Web site, alleging that the city has been 'buying up houses around George Rogers Park.'

The comments were related to an article covering a debate about whether the city should have purchased the Safeco Building and the Nov. 6 ballot measures 3-269 and 3-273.

Responding to allegations that the city was, as one reader put it, 'quietly buying houses around George Rogers,' City Councilor Frank Groznik said in a reader comment: '… as far as I can tell, there was nothing underhanded in the purchase of property around George Rogers Park.'

Jane Heisler, director of public affairs for the city, said each purchase has been for the purposes of historic preservation, providing trail connectivity or recreational opportunities.

The most recent purchase was the 397 Furnace St. property for $1.1 million in 2006. The city used Park and Recreation fund dollars to purchase the property, which has waterfront land. The purpose was to obtain a easement for the extension of the city's waterfront pathway called the Willamette River Greenway.

In 2007, the city sold the property for $1.1 million, on the condition that it retains rights to the easement for the pathway.

In 2002, the city spent $180,000 on an historic iron worker cottage called the Oregon Iron Co. Cottage, using general fund dollars. The property is about one-tenth of an acre and is at 40 Wilbur St.

The intent of the purchase was to preserve the best remaining example of cottages of this kind, according to Heisler. The cottage is about 150 feet north of George Rogers Park and almost directly across from the George Rogers House.

In 2001, for $750,000 in open space funds the city bought the 3.8-acre Hart property, which is about 1,200 feet southeast of George Rogers Park.

The property contains the historic Trueblood House, which the city later sold for $300,000. The city retained the remainder of the open space for a trail connection, which will eventually lead across Highway 43 and Old River Road.

Sale of the Trueblood House was conditioned upon the buyers restoring the house to historic preservation standards. Proceeds from the sale went into reimbursing the open space bond fund.

In 1972, the city purchased a nearly one-acre property at 619 Maple St., which is within George Rogers Park boundaries. The cost was $42,500, with $33,750 coming from state and federal sources. The purchase was for park expansion.

Groznik said there was a reason for each purchase.

'They were purchased for a variety of reasons furthering city goals, policies and programs,' he said.

Heisler said the 2006 Furnace Street acquisition and the 2001 Hart Property acquisition were part of the goal to fulfill the city's Trails Master Plan.

Purchases such as Furnace Street were 'an opportunity to fill in a missing link,' she said.

In the case of the 40 Wilbur Street iron cottage, Heisler said it is not occupied and could be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Maple Street home began as a park caretaker cottage, but in recent years the city has rented it out.

'Visions are only as good as the follow-up actions taken to realize them,' said Heisler.