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Oregon City School District officials reject first offer to buy Serres family-farm property

Long-term plans for construction of a new middle school on a family farm property in Oregon City are in limbo after no sales agreement was reached between the district and property owners.

With no sales agreement, the city last week rescinded its conditional support of the school district's request to annex property into the urban growth boundary.

Larry DidwaySchool district officials say the plan continues to be to use funds from the bond passed in November 2018 to purchase land for a future replacement Ogden Middle School. While the school district's advanced preparations for an application on a preferred property have fallen through for now, the district may soon return to Metro for a growth boundary expansion request.

Oregon City Superintendent Larry Didway said that, although the district determined to not follow through with its application to Metro for the UGB expansion at this time, the city could still offer its support for such a request in the future.

"It does not preclude their support in the future if the situation changes," Didway said.

Officials have determined that a renovated Ogden Middle School is "better suited in the long-term for a smaller student population," so the school district had eventually hoped to build a new middle school near Forsythe Road adjacent to Holcomb Elementary. As this newspaper reported last year, purchase of much of the 32-acre property necessary for the middle school is expected to be funded by Oregon City School District voters passing a $158 million bond on the November ballot. Approximately $90 million of OCSD's bond is going to replace Gardiner Middle School and $20 million to renovating Ogden Middle School.

District officials had planned to go back to voters around the year 2025 for another, smaller bond proposal for the construction of a new Ogden Middle School. At that point, district enrollment projections predict the need for another elementary school, and the remodeled old Ogden building would become OCSD's sixth general-attendance elementary school, in addition to the Spanish bilingual elementary magnet school at Jennings Lodge/Candy Lane.

However, the Oregon City School District has rejected the Serres family's initial price for the farm property. In August 2017, the OC School Board approved the right of first refusal of the Serres property where the middle school building was planned.

"We didn't reach a sales agreement with the property owners, and we're still studying other options for the future location of a new Ogden," Didway said. "The district remains committed to using funds from this bond to acquire land for the future replacement middle school campus."

Since the city's conditional approval was only for the Metro application for this specific property, Oregon City wanted to rescind its conditional approval for now.

Significant housing growth is planned in the Holcolmb area, near the current location of the Serres property. According to the Clackamas County Assessor's Office, the 24.5 acres owned by the Serres family currently has a market value of $641,892. Posted speed on Holcomb Boulevard is 40 mph, but officials expect the speed limits will be reduced as the neighborhood changes and sidewalks and bike lanes are built.

OCSD's application to Metro would have been the first of multiple steps to request construction of a middle school, located on Forsythe Road in unincorporated Clackamas County, adjacent to city limits. On Feb. 6, the city commission expressed general support for the school district's selection of the property as a location for a new school, but its support is conditional upon the site being used only for a middle school.

"The city has not evaluated the service and facility extension demands placed on the city by this proposal," wrote Oregon City Community Development Director Laura Terway in a recent report. "The analysis of how the proposal complies with the Metro code will occur in a public review process and the analysis of adequacy of infrastructure will be analyzed with increasing specificity and detail as the application is reviewed and the proposal proceeds through the development process."

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