County commissioners opt to put property up for auction

The city’s plans to add another access point to Mary S. Young State Park may have been dashed by the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

West Linn was aiming to purchase a 3-acre parcel at 4600 Mapleton Drive from the county for $47,533. During a special meeting Feb. 2, the council unanimously voted to pursue the purchase.

The parcel is heavily treed and drops in slope about 40 to 50 feet toward Nixon Avenue. The city had hoped to construct a path or trail leading from Mapleton to the state park while leaving the rest of the property undisturbed.

Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said the city currently does not have a good access to the park from that neighborhood and additional access to the park is included in the Robinwood neighborhood VERN UYETAKE - The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners decided to put a parcel of foreclosed property abutting Mary S. Young State Park up for auction rather than first offer it to West Linn. The city wanted to purchase the property at a discounted price to gain more access to the park.

The price breaks down to about $15,000 an acre, far below the typical $150,000 an acre average in West Linn. The funds would have come from the system development charges fund.

The parcel of property was approved six years ago for a seven-lot subdivision, but the development never occurred and the property fell into arrears. Clackamas County recently foreclosed on it.

The county routinely holds auctions to recoup costs on these types of properties, but typically gives municipalities first dibs if they agree to pay for back taxes and administration overhead. Then, the municipality must agree to retain the property and its designation and cannot resell or develop the property.

“From time to time the city has the opportunity to buy property foreclosed on by the county,” City Manager Chris Jordan told the council during the Feb 2 meeting. “This property seemed attractive given the price.”

The assessor’s real market value for the parcel is $410,175, according to the county.

However, during a Feb. 26 county board of commissioners meeting, the commission decided to interpret the county’s policy differently by opting to put the property up for auction first.

According to a commission study session worksheet, its property resources division recommended the board approve the property transfer to West Linn. However, commissioners agreed to try to get as much value out of the property as possible by first putting it up for auction. If the property doesn’t sell, then West Linn may have a crack at it.

“West Linn understands that the county commission has the responsibility to make this decision. However, we are disappointed because we believe acquiring the Mapleton property provided a tremendous value to the West Linn community for increased Mary S. Young (State) Park access and protection of natural resources, while also ensuring that all taxing districts in the county received their full share of back taxes owed — including the city and the school district,” Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt said. “The commission’s decision also indicates that the county is changing its policy on the disposition of foreclosed properties. If this is the case, West Linn would have appreciated a heads-up before we spent city staff and council time reviewing the opportunity as presented to acquire the property.”

The county auction, which will include the West Linn property and 11 other county properties, is set for May 7. The minimum bid price on the West Linn property will be 50 percent to 75 percent of its assessed real market value.

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