By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
As it turns out, getting an appraisal on Palma Ciea Park isn’t that simple.
Earlier this year, members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board proposed to see what the value of the park was. The park is on the Willamette River but for the most part isn’t developed and would be hard to develop on.
Keizer resident Gary Blake, who lives near the park, immediately took the process to mean the city was trying to sell the property and quickly voiced strenuous objections. While selling the property was one possibility, Parks Board members emphasized no decisions had been made, with solid numbers needed before any decision could be made.
The issue was forwarded to the Keizer City Council, with councilors directing staff to get an appraisal done.
City Attorney Shannon Johnson gave an update on the process during the Dec. 7 council meeting. There was more discussion during the following night’s Parks Board meeting.
Johnson said staff determined the configuration of the property, including the location of the river wall and power lines coming over the river, make the property difficult to sell. It was figured there would be at most two small buildable lots, which could be classified as riverfront lots.
The situation got thornier when an appraiser found an old plat showed the park was dedicated to the public years ago and wasn’t outright owned by the city.
“Since this changes the issue, I requested that the appraiser postpone further appraisal work,” Johnson said. “We received the deed from Marion County, but Marion County never got the deed to it.”
Johnson recalled the situation being similar to what happened many years ago with Fernwood Park, which was behind the Schoolhouse Square. After the old Keizer School was moved from that location to its current location next to the Keizer Civic Center, it was determined the Schoolhouse Square location was not suitable for a park.
“In that situation, the neighboring property owners agreed with the vacation process and then the city sold the property to the adjoining property owners for relatively nominal amounts,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the staff recommendation was to keep the Palma Ciea Park property as park ground and noted council had three options: leave the property as a park, make the property sellable as home sites or sell the property to adjoining property owners.
Leaving the park as a park could either entail leaving it as is or modifying the park. Making the property useable as home sites would require several steps, all of which could be objected to by neighboring property owners. Selling the property to adjoining property owners would be more likely to work if those property owners were interested.
“That last one would only work if all the neighbors buy in,” Johnson said.
Mayor Cathy Clark had a suggestion for Parks Board members.
“I would like to encourage the Parks Board to work with folks who live around there, to go ahead and form a working group, to determine what they would like to see happen,” Clark said. “Maybe they can use matching grant money if they put something together for that.”
City Manager Chris Eppley suggested coming up with a plan of action.
“The first step is to get a plan,” he said. “Opening a dialogue (with the neighbors) is important.”
Councilors unanimously voted to terminate the idea of getting an appraisal for the park.
The issue was brought up again at the Dec. 8 Parks Board meeting.
“The West Keizer Neighborhood Association had said they were working with residents who want to keep it a park,” councilor Marlene Parsons told Parks Board members. “Our suggestion is for you to go back to those guys and see what they want to do. It’s a conversation to have with the neighbors. Invite them to a meeting and ask what they want to see.”
Parks Board member Richard Walsh asked if the land could be leased for community gardens.
“You could,” said Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer. “That would be an interesting concept.”
David Louden, chair of the Parks Board, liked the idea of bringing in the WKNA members.
“They dipped their foot into the pool and continue with a full swim,” Louden said.
Louden indicated he would call WKNA chair Rhonda Rich with an update on the issue.