Commission chairman offers up trail easement free of charge

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The city has eyed a plot of Mapleton Drive property as a potential additional access point to Mary S. Young State Park.The back and forth between the city and the county regarding a parcel abutting Mary S. Young State Park continues.

Clackamas County Chairman John Ludlow paid a surprise visit to West Linn City Hall on May 3 and offered the city an easement along the west side of the Mapleton property near Mary S. Young State Park, free of charge.

The county would then proceed to sell the rest of the property, following through on a controversial plan laid out in February.

West Linn was originally aiming to purchase the entire 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.

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.

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.

That decision left the city feeling disappointed, but now Ludlow’s offer leaves some hope for the property to be utilized.

City Manager Chris Jordan brought the matter to the city council’s attention during a special meeting on May 6, and councilors agreed that the offer was intriguing — though they would need more specifics regarding the exact location, width and length of the easement.

“We’re interested,” Councilor Mike Jones said. “But what we don’t want is the county commissioners voting to give us an easement that we don’t want. Because that’s just going to be more embarrassment on all sides.”

As such, the council asked Jordan to respond favorably to the offer, but also to obtain more details in the process. As Jordan noted at the special meeting, it was also unclear whether Ludlow had the three necessary votes from the commission to make such an offer.

“If there are three votes for this arrangement, we’d be happy to work with the appropriate county staff to delineate the appropriate location of the easement,” Jordan wrote in a May 7 email to County Administrator Steve Wheeler.

As of Monday, according to Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester, the city had not received any further details from the county regarding the easement.

“None of this has gone through the board of commissioners yet,” Worcester said. “So it’s all still up in the air.”

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