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Fish: Mediate sale of Water Bureau site

After months of mounting opposition to the sale of the Freeman water tank property in Southwest Portland, Portland Water Bureau Commissioner Nick Fish is offering to enter into mediation with the neighbors who oppose it and the developer in the process of purchasing the site.

The neighbors, known as the Woods Park Advocates, had threatened legal action against the Portland Water Bureau if it did not cancel a pending sale of the decommissioned water tank’s property to Lake Oswego-based developer Renaissance Homes.

“It had just occurred to me that with the prospect of two lawsuits and a question that I’ve essentially inherited and on some level feel agnostic about, what better than to go to mediation,” Fish told the Portland Tribune Thursday. “Litigation usually ends up with a winner and a loser; this is a process that might spark a more creative solution. All I’m asking is for people to come in good faith and see if they can work out the difference.”

The Freeman Water Tank is one of eight properties owned by the Water Bureau and declared surplus for sale in June 2010. The Woods Park Advocates oppose the sale on the grounds that there was insufficient public notice and that the terms of the sale violate Oregon law. Fish was not the commissioner in charge of the Water Bureau when the process began.

“I’ve inherited this, but, look: I have listened carefully to the concerns that have been raised, and I have taken immediate action to make sure in future sales of surplus property we’ll do a better job of providing public notice, and that’s important to me,” Fish said. “At the same time I’ve inherited what I’m told is a binding contract to sell this property.

“That said, I’m willing to … roll up my sleeves and bring the parties together and see if we can find a creative solution, and after all those are always the best outcomes.”