BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'

PUBLIC HEARING

February 7, 2006

5:30 p.m.

Florence Events Center, Florence

APPROVED 3/22/06

 

Commissioner Bill Dwyer presided with Commissioners Bobby Green, Sr., Anna Morrison, Peter Sorenson and Faye Stewart present.  Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer was also present.

 

PUBLIC HEARING/Dunes Property.

 

Todd Winter, Parks, explained that Lane County Parks consists of 4,419 acres of developed parks and open space properties.  He noted there are 71 individual properties extending from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean.  He noted that Parks receives 42 percent of its yearly revenue from County car rental tax.  He said the remainder of the division receives funds through user fees and is supported through Oregon State Parks and Oregon State Marine Board with grants and partnerships.  He noted the division is experiencing annual business costs rising at six percent per year while income is increasing annually at less than three percent.  He said they have been forced to explore new opportunities to enhance revenue sources for the division. He said they currently have a car rental tax, State Parks and marine board support, a maintenance partnership and nine parks that have significant user fees.  He noted that those funds are the support for the entire system.  He said that staff believes that the tax foreclosed property program will provide funding to generate other revenue streams to help subsidize areas of operation.  He noted the current capital improvement project list requires over $30 million in project costs.  They have been evaluating how they do business and how they must change to remain successful.

 

Winter recalled that on September 15, 2004, staff presented to the Board a feasibility report pertaining to County tax foreclosed properties being designated as parkland and sold with the proceeds to be used for park purposes, pursuant to Oregon Revised Statutes.  He said the Board directed staff to prepare a proposal that would outline a procedure for proceeding forward at a measured pace by first designating only one or two properties as park land, with those parcels outside of the city limit.  On February 2, 2005, the Board voted unanimously to approve the order and amended Chapter 21 of the Lane Manual to add provisions for the designation of County forests, parks and recreational areas and disposition of sales proceeds.

 

Winter reported on March 30, 2005, the 80-acre tax foreclosed property located south of Florence was designated parkland pursuant to Lane Manual. He noted that property designated under Lane Manual 21.435 might thereafter be alienated, sold or conveyed pursuant to Oregon Revised Statute 275.330.  He noted the tax-foreclosed property selected had been on the tax rolls since 2002.  He added the property was always in private ownership until it was foreclosed.  He said a majority of the land is a dune with a forested area covering approximately 35 percent of the remaining property.  He said the Board directed staff to conduct an appraisal of the property and one was done and was presented to the Board on November 9, 2005.  He explained that the intended use of the appraisal was for establishing market value for decision purposes for the Board of Commissioners.  He noted the natural resources parcel is approximately 62.33 acres with an appraised value of $374,000.  He indicated the rural residential portion is 22.14 acres and is appraised at $443,000.  The total valuation of the property is $817,000.

 

Winter recalled that on November 9, staff was directed by the Board to report back with a review appraisal, sales options and an overview of purchased interests by the parties.  He said on December 14 staff reported back with the review appraisal completed, and reported that the market value conclusion appears to be near the lower limits of the range of value.  He said there was a list of six interested parties and one unsolicited formal offer presented to the Board.  He said the Board over the past weeks received two other offers that he entered into the record.

 

Winter stated on December 14, 2005, the Board directed staff to hold a public hearing and staff has performed the lawful public notification.  He added the Board directed staff to hold the public hearing in Florence.  He said the Board also directed staff to obtain a formal outline from Oregon State Parks, outlining the conditions of their interest and the potential purchase of the 80-acre parcel located south of Florence.  He indicated that Oregon State Parks was provided a full copy of the property and review appraisal.  He added that State Parks had physically visited the property.  He noted on January 18, Oregon State Parks presented the potential purchase interest to the State Parks Commission who viewed the potential land acquisition favorably.

 

Winter indicated that he received a letter from Oregon State Parks on January 20, 2006 and they demonstrated their interest in purchase of the property.  He said the letter states that they hope the information will demonstrate to Lane County, Oregon State Parksí interest in the parcel and their willingness to work on a transaction to preserve the property in public ownership.  He added that Oregon State Parks thought the transaction was a good mechanism for providing a great property and to help finance parks and recreation in Lane County.  He indicated that Oregon State Parks would be willing to purchase the property subject to a life estate or some equivalent agreement.  He noted a gentleman still lives on the property that was foreclosed.  State Parks is willing to allow him to stay there.  He said Oregon State Parks would have partial funding for the purchase at time of closing at the current biennium.  He said in June 2007, they would be able to purchase the other portion of the parcel.  He noted the current appraisal of $817,000 was based on the highest and best use of the property as a development property.  He indicated they would like to negotiate a price based on the use of the property as preservation and recreation as opposed to development.  He said they would be willing to work on the details of the transfer to the benefit of all interested parties, including the willingness to purchase the property at the current appraised value.

 

Stewart recalled on January 26 he met with Tim Woods, Director of State Parks and David Right, State Parks, to reconfirm their interest in the property.  He said they were interested in purchasing the entire parcel and would pay the appraised value of $817,000, over two bienniums.

 

Winter noted there is a one-acre in holding on the property that was sold through the property management division in 1996 through a Sheriffís sale.  He said the owner had indicated interest in maintaining a right-of-way for some access to the property.  He commented that the division believes that the proceeds resulting from a potential sale of the property would provide funding for the division consistent with the intent to develop additional revenue sources.

 

Green wanted to find out the back taxes due on the property.  He said since the Board had given direction to the Parks Department to follow the processes that was outlined, he asked how many times the Board had taken this action on tax foreclosed property and they had consented and given direction.

 

Winter responded that he had only approached the Board on two occasions since they started the tax foreclosed property program.  He noted the 80-acre Glenada property was the first but there were delays.  He added the other property was north of Santa Clara.  He noted it was a house that was foreclosed on and St. Vincent de Paul came to the hearing and communicated that it was good for public housing and the Board thought it was in the best interest of the public.  He said they sold the property to St. Vincent de Paul for $50,000. 

 

Commissioner Dwyer opened the Public Hearing.

 

Phil Brubaker, Mayor of Florence, re-stated the position of the City Council of Florence.  He noted that last year they received a pledge from the Arlie Foundation offering $250,000 if the city was interested in buying the parcels in their entirety to keep them out of private development.  He said the city in accepting that pledge took the same position at that time and it had not changed.  He hoped the tenant on the property could be given a lifetime estate to live out his days on the property.  He said they want it to stay in public hands for public use in perpetuity.

 

Jack Steward, Florence, stated that he and his wife have lived in Florence since 1987.  He said they are third-generation Oregonians.  He and his friends and neighbors are asking the Board to save their dunes.  He urged the Board to sell to the State of Oregon the entire acreage and the timber as one unit for permanent public use and pleasure, only as necessary.

 

Scott Bartlett, Eugene, asked the Board to save the parcel in its entirety.  He commented that this was not the time or place for development.  He noted that the State of Oregon wants the land and it would be a win-win proposition.

 

Bob Hursch, Florence, commented that he thought the Board would do the right thing.

 

Dorothy Lewis, Florence, indicated that 2,000 people have signed petitions.  She said they donít want to see the landscape destroyed by another developer.  She said they would do whatever is necessary to preserve the beauty and unique landscapes. She noted the land is beneficial to the citizens of Florence and West Lane County.  She commented that they deserve to be treated with respect and their concerns should be the Boardís main consideration when they make a decision about the dunes.

 

Lee Ellingson, Florence, noted the dunes arenít formed anywhere else on the planet except for Florence and there arenít places where tourists could see the dunes other than below the bridge.  She commented that the dunes have progressed in an eastward move.  She said it was important that a public agency familiar with the process take this over.

 

James Sherwood, Florence, asked before the Board considers using the land for development that they return it to the Confederated Tribes.

 

Jerry Wasserburg, Florence, commented that beaches have become property of the people.  He didnít want to see the beaches like they are in California.  He thought this was an example they should continue to follow.

 

Jerry Copeland, Florence, commented that if they wait and have open space, the area will be become more populated and will be an attractive place for people to come for vacations.

 

Wilbur Turnek, Florence, submitted written testimony.  He and his wife favored selling this to the State Parks.  He hoped if it goes to the State Parks or Forest Service there would be restrictions put on it.  He wanted to state no clear cuts for campgrounds.  He also didnít want ATVís in the dune area. He recalled he was the chair of the Coastal Commission for four years. He passed around pictures of beauty in the dunes.

 

Bruce Lesan, Florence, noted his was the most adjacent property to the 84 acres in question.  He said he had been there for 22 years.  He said that Colter Street off of Highway 101 was the only access off the highway and it is a County road that is not maintained by the County.  He asked if the County was going to improve the road if they choose to develop it. He indicated there are seven wells drilled adjacent to the property.  He said the sand is moving and people canít get to it except by walking.  He didnít know how the land could be worth $375,000.

 

Diane Bailiff, Florence, thanked Turnik for his comments.  She said they need the dunes to remind them they are a community with common values and a shared appreciation.  She asked the Board to save the dunes.

 

Kay King, Florence, thought the majority of the people who signed the petitions were acting out of fear.  She said in the beginning she shared the fear.  She noted the land had been private from the beginning.  She thought there was a way to guaranty not giving up land needed for housing and revenue. She commented that every time they lock up more private land that could produce revenue, if the land is sold in its entirety to the state, it is taken off the tax rolls.

 

Joann Henderson, Florence, commented that the dunes and the decisions they make are representative of the value they place on state heritage and local culture.  She said that not only will development affect them adversely, it would show future generations their lack of stewardship.  She said they should keep the entire parcel in tact for everyone who is drawn to them.  She said they should protect the part of the dune system and recognize that the money from the sale to State Parks would meet the Boardís initial goal of raising money to offset the underfunding of other parks.  She said they should sell the entire parcel to State Parks for a reasonable price.

 

Alta Taylor, Florence, said that zoning has all of the land tied up so they canít build houses on much of the land in West Lane County.  She commented that Florence should consider joining Douglas County.  She said they have a population of over 6,000 and no county services and no Sheriff; but Drain with a population of 100, has those things.

 

Bob Lara, Florence, supported the idea of keeping the dunes area in public hands.  He said this would continue to happen because the County is being squeezed.  He said they as citizens need to be careful about the leadership decision and what type of thinking they are going to have in the future.  He said they want to keep Florence the jewel of the nation.

 

Mark Lull, Heceta Beach, thought the Board should save forever a unique piece of property for future generations.

 

Doug Barrett, Florence, indicated that his father tried to buy a one-acre parcel, but he was told he couldnít because it was reserved for a park.  He said that someone went to Lane County six years ago and was able to buy the land.  He commented that the one-acre parcel was sold illegally.  He thought the dedication should be back to the original owners.  He said if this doesnít go to State Parks, it should go back to him.

 

Richard Dobson, Florence, commented that the majority of people are for keeping the dunes in the public hands.

 

David Bellemore, Dunes City, said he was a developer.  He noted the job of the government is to tell developers where they cannot build houses.  He thought the dunes should be preserved.  He noted there is not enough money to preserve all the land they wanted to preserve.  He said it is taxes that will buy the dunes if they are saved.

 

Jakonah Bell, Springfield, was in support of selling the dunes to the State Parks to preserve the land for future generations.

 

Dale Saari, Florence, was in support of selling the dunes portion to the Oregon State Parks Division.   He commented that everyone in Florence wants to preserve the view of the dunes or the riparian vegetation and the trees on the Warwick property.  He hoped there could have been a compromise to retain some of the tax base in the Warwick piece that is in the trees while reserving the riparian vegetation, the views and dunes.  He was also concerned about schoolsí lack of funds.   He wanted a way to compromise on the Warwick property to allow for a tax base.

 

Norma Hargraves, Florence, stated she was a new citizen in Florence.  She liked the dunes and didnít want to see the parcel go to development.  She thought selling to the State Parks would be a good idea.

 

Sylvia Shaw, Eugene, represented the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition.  She said they are a statewide organization with members in Florence.  She favored the sale of the entire property to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.  She said the citizens of Florence spoke in favor of such a purchase. She thought if the Board divided the property it would be a mistake.  She said the property is ecologically fragile and contains an ecosystem.  Dividing the land would break up the ecosystem. She added there are Native American artifacts on the property that had not been surveyed well and they were concerned about that heritage.  She didnít think this was the way for Parks to gain income.

 

Annie Schmidt, Florence, stated that she lived in Florence by choice.  She heard there was a lack of water in the parcel for development of the land and it wouldnít be good development use of the land.

 

Floyd Lodschen, Florence, said he had been in Florence for 20 years coming from Laguna Beach.  He said the dunes are sacred and he didnít want anything to go on it.  He said the dunes should be maintained forever.

 

Kevin Bernhard, Florence, was neutral.  He wants to be able to afford a decent house and job and a decent way of life.  He wanted something better than what he had.

 

Mary Bawneister, Dunes City, said they donít have affordable housing in Florence.  She asked how they were going to take the area and call it affordable housing.

 

Sally Kelly, Florence, said beaches are free for people to enjoy.

 

Margaret Hammer, Florence, commented that public sentiment was clear with what should be done.  She commented that security and retirement does not make any of them a better person or less environmentally aware when they have problems beyond food and shelter.

 

Sam Dantone, Florence, didnít think it made sense for this to go to a private purchase when the state wanted it.

 

Wally Shoults, Dunes City, asked the Board to guard, cherish and protect the land for there is no afterlife for a place that started out as heaven.

 

David Campbell, Florence, wanted to save the dunes and keep the developers out of it.

 

Amber Buckwald Tucker, Dunes City, said she represented the under-30 crowd.  Said she was a native Oregonian and has lived on the Siuslaw her whole life. She chooses to live in a small town and struggle because it is beautiful.  She asked the Board to sell the dunes to the State Parks so they could continue to enjoy the dunes.

 

Jennie Vilinity, Florence, gave a history of the Florence dunes.

 

Kari Hogervorst, Dunes City, said she grew up going over the dunes.  She thought that they should be preserved.  She wanted the whole package to go together.  She wanted the Oregon State Parks to purchase it.

 

There being no one else signed up to speak, Commissioner Dwyer closed the Public Hearing.

 

Green asked what taxing districts stand to lose from the proposal if they sell and it goes off the tax rolls.

 

Winter responded there are 84 taxing districts in Lane County.  He noted the local districts affected would be the Siuslaw Fire District, local schools and the Lane County General Fund.

 

Green asked if Winter received any written documentation from any of the agencies outside of the City of Florence because of the revenue they would lose.

 

Winter said he had no communication from any taxing district.

 

Van Vactor explained that schools are financed by the state and have a uniform funding formula that is applied.  He said if property tax goes down, there wouldnít be any net loss for schools.

 

MOTION: to move to direct staff to enter into negotiations with State Parks to purchase the entire 80 plus acres at the appraised value of $817,000.

 

Stewart MOVED, Sorenson SECONDED.

 

Morrison asked if the motion meant the State Parks wanted the full property or a portion.

 

Stewart noted he had been in conversations with State Parks and they indicated they would pay the appraised value of $817,000.  He directed staff to entertain that offer.  He had environmental concerns about the property that are important for preserving the natural drainage, lakes and the waterfalls.  He was also concerned that if the property were developed, there would be the potential for contamination of the environment.  He was also concerned about the access.  He was supportive of State Parks giving Warwick a life estate.  He said elected officials have been encouraging them to preserve the property in public ownership.  He commented that recreation is an important piece of preserving history and the natural resources.  He believed preserving this piece of property would be important for Florence.

 

Sorenson thought it was important that they make a good decision for the tax foreclosure program.  He recalled in the beginning they were told the property had no value as open space.  He noted that all revenue from the sale would go for Lane County Parks and none would go outside the County for payment. 

 

Morrison commented that unless they put restrictions on the property, then the state could do what they wanted.   She indicated there were a variety of recreation options available.  She said in the negotiations with the state, they should solidify that the lands are not to be touched.  With regard to the appraisal of the property, she thought it was conservative.  She noted there was an offer made on the property in 1993 for $1.3 million of which Warwick turned down and he lost the property.

 

Dwyer indicated there were other values besides monetary with this land.  He thought if they got $300,000 to keep it intact they could give Warwick a life estate and preserve it for the future.  He didnít want to put a lot of restrictions on the property.  He did want logging restricted.  He wanted to have State Parks take it and add it to their inventory.

 

Green indicated this meeting was advertised as a public hearing.  He said Sorenson in the past had been a stickler on what the agenda said and did not say regarding deliberation or making a decision.  He said they would be inconsistent with previous actions.  He said this meeting was not about what Morrison wanted, it is a Board decision.  He wanted the Board to make a decision based on good information and not emotional decision. He said they couldnít control the stateís behavior.  He said they could give the best faith offer they could and direct staff to engage in good faith negotiations.   He supported the motion, but directed staff to enter into negotiations.  He wanted to take tentative action subject to negotiation.

 

Stewart reiterated that his motion was to direct staff to enter into negotiations with the State Parks for the entire 80 plus acres at $817,000, the appraised value.

 

Green asked about the concerns about no clear cutting and a life estate with Warwick.

 

Stewart said he would be willing to add no clear cutting and no ATVís to his motion.

 

VOTE: 5-0.

 

There being no further business, Commissioner Dwyer adjourned the meeting at 7:55 p.m.

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary