GRANTS PASS – Further action on the future of the River Road Reserve property has been tabled until after a new appraisal on the value of the property can be obtained. City Council members voted Monday, Oct. 28, to direct staff to obtain the new appraisal, as well as additional details about two proposals the city has received regarding the property, before bringing the item back to the council at a future date.
Council member Clint Scherf, who authored the motion, said he appreciated receiving community response regarding the two proposals, and he wanted to address the concerns of his colleagues on the council who requested additional information.
More than 20 people provided public comment on the matter during the special meeting, which was scheduled in response to public requests for additional opportunity to be heard, said City Attorney Mark Bartholomew.
At the meeting, Bartholomew presented a summary of discussion items, and a brief history of previous deliberations conducted regarding the property. He provided a list of more than 30 public meetings conducted at the council and committee level since 2016, and list of a range of comments previously received by members of the public. He also outlined the two proposals that resulted from the city’s published Request for Expressions of Interest (see SIDE BAR), as well as details regarding the financial value of the property.
A renewal of a current lease to Fort Vannoy Farms at existing terms would result in approximately $1.3 million over a 100 year term. The current value of the property based on a 2017 appraisal is approximately $3.3 million, said Bartholomew.
Council discussion began with council member Valerie Lovelace discussing previous correspondence the city received from Oregon state offices expressing concerns regarding the inclusion of proposed urban uses for the RRR property within the city’s Mater Plan, as well as potential transportation impacts such uses could have on resulting roads and streets. The RRR land is technically outside city limits in the jurisdiction of Josephine County.
Lovelace expressed empathy for members of the Parks Advisory Committee, who she said had become frustrated over the years about restrictions on the use of the land, which is designated for Exclusive Farm Use, precluding the city with moving forward with proposed park use as outlined in the Master Plan.
“It will never be done at that level,” said Lovelace.
Council member Joel King referenced more recent correspondence regarding recommendations the city continue to hold the land for some type of approved future use. Council member Rick Riker, chairman of the city’s Performance Audit, Visioning and Enhancement Committee said that recommendations from that committee were advanced without the most current information on the matter. Council President Tyler Flaming said that recommendations for the city’s Parks Advisory Committee have been “inconsistent,” changing recently from earlier recommendations to sell the land in order to pay for the renovations of other existing city parks.
King requested input about the city’s noticing requirements with regard to the RFEI, and policies involved with the city’s sale of surplus property. Bartholomew said sales transactions of that type are “exceedingly rare” in the city’s recent history.
City Manager Aaron Cubic said the city published the request as it does similar requests for proposals in the Daily Journal of Commerce, with a 30-day window of opportunity for response. In addition to meeting that “industry standard,” Cubic said the city “provided additional steps and processes on this than what we usually do.”
Bartholomew added the city has provided those steps “beyond what is required by statute and public law.”
Members of the council further expressed their appreciation for the process and the amount of public input that has been received on the matter.
“We’re all just trying to what is best for our community as a whole,” said council member Dennis Roler.
Roler suggested that proceeds from the potential sale of the RRR property could be used to fill a backlog of required maintenance and renovations to existing city parks, and much-needed repairs to the city’s Caveman Pool. Riker expressed a similar motivation, including concerns the pool would have to be closed if it could not be repaired.
“We have a job here to balance the budget and make sure the city is financially sound,” said Riker.
Lovelace also mentioned the Caveman Pool and list of needs at existing parks as a priority.
“Parks is always something that motivates people,” she said.
Council member Barry Eames provided another voice in favor of using potential proceeds to renovate the Caveman Pool.
“I swam in that pool as a kid,” said Eames. “In my mind this is what’s best for Grants Pass,” he said in favor of selling the RRR property.
King said he had been polling residents he encounters within the city. Many of them have encouraged him to vote for selling the property, he said.
“It’s not a lack of caring when we deal with a conflict. It’s because we all care. That we have different views is not a surprise,” King said.
Council member Dwight Faszer said he “never supported the acquisition of the property in the first place,” when it was purchased years ago before he joined the council.
Faszer said he was prepared to move forward with direction to negotiate a sale.
“We have spent countless hours with regards to this,” said Faszer.
Responses to RFEI -
Fort Vanoy Farms submitted a request for a long-term lease for a multi-use project incorporating as many as a dozen different partners to bring potential ideas/plans to fruition.
TMB Racing submitted a request to make an out-right purchase of the property for a planned equestrian center and training facility.
Both proposals ensured continued cooperation with existing uses, such as the annual Balloon Festival, Southern Oregon Air Academy, and farming operations.