Freeman water tank lawsuit dropped

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The neighborhood groups lobbying to stop the controversial sale of a property that houses a decomissioned 335,000 gallon water tank have backed down.

Groups who call themselves the Multnomah Neighborhood Association and the Woods Park Advocates dropped a lawsuit against the Portland Water Bureau over the sale of the Freeman water tank property in Southwest Portland’s Multnomah neighborhood.

“Lawyers get expensive, and we are just a neighborhood association without the type of deep pockets that the developer or the city may have,” said Multnomah Neighborhood Association chairman Moses Ross.

Southwest Portland residents (from left) Jeremy Solomon, Terri Preeg Riggsby and Bill Kielhorn walked though the three-quarter acre city parcel they want preserved last week. October 2013. (Jonathan House/Portland Tribune)
Southwest Portland residents (from left) Jeremy Solomon, Terri Preeg Riggsby and Bill Kielhorn walked though the three-quarter acre city parcel they want preserved last week. October 2013. (Jonathan House/Portland Tribune)

The groups initially filed the suit because they say they were not given enough consultation over the sale of the 0.76-acre property — for a meagre $140,000 to developer Renaissance Homes. They also alleged the city’s efforts to notify the surrounding community was insufficient, and that the sale violated local and state law.

A Multnomah Circuit Court judge ruled the city did not follow the correct procedures in selling the property, but also ruled the argument was not strong enough to grant a preliminary injunction.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t get a preliminary injunction, but we were heartened that the court did appear to agree with us that the city did not provide adequate notification of the sale,” Ross told The Portland Tribune.

The suit was filed in January after groups lobbied for months to stop the sale of the property to Lake Oswego-based Renaissance Homes, which had plans to develop three homes on the lot.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, Jan. 26, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, Jan. 26, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

The property was one of eight Water Bureau-owned properties declared surplus and marked for sale in an ordinance approved by the Portland City Council in June 2010.

In early January 2012, a neighbor of the property, Bill Cely, expressed interest in purchasing the property but eventually backed out. That September, Renaissance agreed to acquire the property from the Water Bureau for a promissory note of $1,000 and a total purchase price of $140,000.

On Jan. 16, wanting to avoid two potential lawsuits — one by the opponents and one by Renaissance — Portland City Commissioner and Water Bureau head Nick Fish proposed, unsuccessfully, that the Water Bureau, Renaissance and the opponents enter into three-way mediation.

Neighborhood advocates said they will work more closely with the city to ensure better citizen involvement over future sales.

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