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County sends wrong message about true value


Members of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners had dollar signs in their eyes last month instead of the true well-being of county residents.

When discussing an upcoming auction to recoup the costs on foreclosed properties, the commissioners also snatched away a parcel West Linn had its eyes on.

The city of West Linn was hoping to purchase a 3-acre parcel at 4600 Mapleton Drive from the county for a steal at $47,533. The parcel would allow the city to build a trail for new park access to Mary S. Young State Park. The Mapleton side of the park currently has no easy access to the park and providing access is a goal in the Robinwood neighborhood plan.

In years past, county commissioners have always given municipalities first dibs on properties if they agreed to pay for back taxes and administration overhead. This gives cities the chance to gain parkland, preserve tree groves and create preservation corridors.

In West Linn, the city has acquired parcels on Imperial Drive to provide a trail easement and to preserve a stream corridor, along with a stream corridor on Willamette View Court.

In Lake Oswego, the city acquired the Kincaid Curlicue pathway to Foothills Park from the county as it was a foreclosed property. Lake Oswego also purchased a former chip processing plant property from the city of Portland and built Foothills Park.

These transactions between cities and the county not only give cities a chance to add enhancements and preserve greenspaces, they also build partnerships, goodwill and connections between municipalities.

The West Linn parcel of property up for auction 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.

Under an agreement with the county, once a city acquires foreclosed property and designates it as public space, the city must retain that designation and cannot flip or develop the property.

However, at its Feb. 26 meeting, the commissioners decided the value of the parcel was too high to just give it away to the city. The assessor’s real market value for the parcel is $410,175, and an auction could recoup up to 75 percent of that.

Though West Linn could afford the $47,533 price tag, it does not have the funds to compete in an auction, thus potentially losing out on a chance to protect a heavily treed piece of property and give neighbors access to the park.

Commissioners speculated the city would just slap a paved trail through the property, thus ruining its integrity anyway, so they might as well sell the property for more money and potential future development. However, West Linn staff members say a paved trail was never the intention and do not appreciate the commissioners’ assumptions.

West Linn is not going to chase after the property by going to auction, but if it doesn’t sell, the county may come back to West Linn with a reduced price offer and throw the city a bone.

We think commissioners need to think about all of the benefits — not just dollar signs and the bottom line. Last time we checked, West Linn residents are also Clackamas County residents, and the commissioners should have considered their benefits from this transaction.