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Mediator intervenes in Cove fray

Willamette Cove's up-and-down roller-coaster ride is up again.

Using an impartial third party, mediation between the senior-citizen residents and landowner Jerry Jennings began Tuesday afternoon, according to Mary Ann Wersch, a Cove homeowner who represents the residents along with Attorney Stuart Brown.

Silently hanging over the mediation is the city's ordinance that would require Jennings to pay the price of moving the homes up to 100 miles or to purchase the homes from evicted residents who cannot find a space open within 100 miles.

Should that ordinance become law in West Linn, Jennings' attorney, Roger Alfred, promised a challenge in court.

The final vote on that city ordinance was postponed Monday night to allow two weeks for the mediation to take place. The council could take the vote next July 10.

Wersch would not comment on the results of the first four-hour mediation session, but said progress was made Tuesday.

'We are bound by confidentiality,' she said. 'We really can't talk about the progress that we've made. But we feel we're making progress; so, we'll continue to talk.'

This mediation is just the latest in a series of activities designed to inject a sense of fairness into the proceedings.

City Attorney Tim Ramis said the city is sitting in on the mediation because the city has an interest in bringing an equitable solution to the situation. Willamette Cove is the city's only affordable housing.

After being thwarted in several attempts to purchase the land their homes rest upon, Cove residents received three recent offers from Jennings. He first offered $5,000 to help with moving expenses, which the residents immediately refused; then $7,500, which received the same cold shoulder; and finally $10,000, which was offered at the 11th hour at the June 12 city council meeting.

At that same meeting, the council voted 4-0 to approve on first reading the ordinance that would require Jennings to pay moving expenses or purchase homes.

The city of Wilsonville earlier approved a similar ordinance for Thunderbird Park in Wilsonville, and the city is still in litigation over the legality of its provisions.