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City agrees to take ownership of White Oak Savanna land

Several acres unprotected and expected to be purchased

A prolonged effort to secure 5.7 acres of unprotected land at West Linn’s White Oak Savanna took a significant step forward Oct. 10, as the City Council voted unanimously to authorize an agreement to take ownership of the land after it is acquired by the Trust for Public Land (TPL).

TIDINGS PHOTO: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - The City is looking to complete its White Oak Savanna park by adding the final 5.7 acres to around 14 acres of exisiting city park space.

Although 14 acres of the White Oak Savanna have been city-owned and protected since 2009, the remaining acres in question are privately owned and thus unprotected. The City has worked in tandem with volunteers and the TPL to negotiate a price and acquire grants to fund the eventual purchase, with the idea being to add the 5.7 acres to the existing city-owned park land.

“At this point there is no news on the final purchase price or any of that,” Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said at the Oct. 10 meeting. “But we’ve had assurances from the Trust for Public Lands that they’re working hard to find out what that eventual price will be and whether or not they’ll be able to fund any of the remaining — if there is any remaining — funds to come up with.”

In a memo to the council, Worcester said the current purchase price is $1.2 million — down from the original price of $1.7 million.

“Trust for Public Lands is actively seeking another price reduction from the owner,” Worcester said. “Without further reduction, the City may be required to contribute up to $125,000 in order to complete this transaction and keep the City’s favorable grant performance record intact.”

With a closing on the property tentatively scheduled for January 2017, Worcester said combined funding for the acquisition currently stands at $1,075,000. Neighbors for a Livable West Linn, a nonprofit headed by White Oak Savanna advocate Roberta Schwarz, has raised $500,000 in support of the acquisition. An additional $500,000 will come from a Metro Greenspaces Capital Grant, with the remaining $75,000 coming from a local government grant.

In the “probable” event that the City must contribute that extra $125,000, Worcester said a portion of the funding would likely come from park Systems Development Charge (SDC) funds.

“It is likely we will defer at least two projects (Blue Heron Property and Maddax Woods Development) in the 2016-17 CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) to make up the $125,000, but those projects are unlikely to be started this fiscal year anyway,” Worcester wrote in the memo.

In 2014, a past City Council voted 3-2 against a resolution to acquire the remaining White Oak Savanna land. Though that particular resolution did not come with any immediate financial commitments from the city, a staff report noted that converting the land into a park would likely cost the city about $2.1 million further down the line due to required street improvements and zoning changes.

At the time, councilors said they were uncomfortable with the possibility of such expenditures.

In an email, Worcester said that while “those costs are always a concern,” the associated costs with this latest acquisition should be minor.

“The fact is that most of the frontages and related costs were actually shifted to the City during the first acquisition (of the 14 acres), so the additional cost is minimal in comparison,” Worcester said. “When it comes to total costs, they should end up in line with what we have spent in City money previously on parks about that size or even smaller. The costs will be spread out and possibly not all of the potential sidewalk and roadway improvements will be attributed to the park.”

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..