By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
An agreement between city leaders and attorneys for the Rawlins family could be coming soon.
The battle regarding 16 acres of land in Keizer Station owned by Timm and Linda Rawlins has been going on for nearly a decade, as mentioned in recent Keizertimes articles.
According to a recent timeline from Keizer city attorney Shannon Johnson, the Rawlinses purchased the property in question for $139,500 in 1994. In 2008, the city imposed a Local Improvement District (LID) fee of $6.7 million on the property.
Developer Chuck Sides with Northwest National LLC made LID payments to the city on behalf of the Rawlinses until the summer of 2010. Sides said last week he was also making rent payments for the properties to the Rawlinses “until last month.”
Due to the lack of LID payments, city officials initiated foreclosure proceedings on the properties last year. The issue has been in court since then, while the Rawlinses also contacted state legislators to initiate proposed new legislation – specifically, House Bill 4017 – to address the situation.
A summary judgment is expected to be issued in Marion County Circuit Court on March 10. Lonn Johnston, attorney for the Rawlins family, said progress is being made.
“I can’t give a comment on any terms,” Johnston told the Keizertimes on Tuesday. “I haven’t seen any form of agreement. We have a conceptual agreement, but nothing binding. That means we have a term sheet that we agree on, but the city will have to have a public hearing.”
That is indeed happening. On Tuesday morning, Johnson placed a legal advertisement with the Keizertimes for a notice of public hearing regarding the option of sale of property. The hearing will take place Thursday, March 6 at noon in council chambers at Keizer Civic Center, 930 Chemawa Road NE.
While the Rawlins name is not mentioned in the notice, the two tax lot numbers listed are indeed the Rawlins properties.
“The city will consider if the property has public use or should be optioned to be sold,” the notice reads in part. “It is necessary or convenient to enter into an option of sale of the property to allow the city to avoid the costs of further litigation and maintenance of the property.”
The issue has been the topic of recent Keizer City Council executive sessions. Johnson declined to comment publicly on the matter.
Johnston, meanwhile, indicated the Rawlinses want to work with city officials.
“I know my clients are looking forward to moving forward as a partner with the city, not as an adversary,” he said. “My clients’ desire is to see the adversarial stuff behind them. They want to try to ensure things move forward with their property in a manner positive and helpful for everyone involved.”
In a recent meeting with legislators, both Johnson and Keizer City Manager Chris Eppley warned Keizer citizens would have to pay for the remainder of the bonds for the foreclosed properties.
“It’s real easy to feel sorry for the Rawlinses when they come up here,” Johnson said Feb. 11. “But there’s 37,000 people who live in Keizer and they’re the ones that are going to be paying the tab.”
Eppley said the Rawlinses made a profit but are turning to taxpayers for relief now that the tide has turned.
“After the proposal goes bad, they want the 37,000 citizens of Keizer to offer them a safety net or buyout,” Eppley told legislators. “I am sympathetic to the Rawlinses. I wish there was a way to resolve this. But this has been dragged out. The citizens of Keizer are on the hook more and more each day.
“I ask you to turn away from this folly,” Eppley added. “The piece (of legislation) that’s left is incredibly silly. I can’t imagine we’re here to talk about this.”
Eppley told the Keizertimes last week a version of HB 4017 was sent from the House Committee on Rural Communities to the House Rules Committee with no recommendation.
“The no recommendation was for the House Rules to act as a parking lot for the bill, to allow the city and the Rawlinses to make a deal,” Eppley said.