ODOT sues marina, Oregon City for I-205 bridge project land
Two key pieces of land stand in the way of ODOT's plan to seismically retrofit the Abernethy Bridge and widen a section of Interstate 205 between Oregon City and unincorporated Lake Oswego.
State officials recently filed a lawsuit against both Oregon City and Sportcraft Landing asking a Clackamas County Circuit Court judge to grant ODOT eminent domain to complete the widening of the bridge to three lanes in both directions.
A city spokesperson expressed confidence that an agreement would soon be reached among the three parties, while the owner of the marina business founded in 1969 said the situation will likely force the company's closure.
Prior to beginning legal action, the Oregon attorney general's office wrote that ODOT attempted to negotiate an agreement to purchase the land acquisitions for the I-205 project. ODOT "was unable to reach an agreement and therefore prosecutes this action," according to the Sept. 30 lawsuit.
State officials told the court that permanent and temporary easements across parts of about 7 acres of properties in Oregon City should be worth about $551,500.
Filing in court for condemnation will ensure that ODOT will have the property they need by the time the project starts in 2022, an Oregon City spokesperson said. If a county judge grants the state condemnation rights, ODOT's acquisition of land for the I-205 project will not depend on the resolution of the renewal license discussions between Oregon City and Sportcraft Landing Inc.
Oregon City residents and their elected representatives on the city commission generally support the proposed I-205 construction, but they have protested the state's plan to impose tolling on the Abernethy Bridge, which is expected to cause traffic bottlenecks on neighborhood streets in Oregon City as drivers seek to avoid paying the tolls.
In 2018, 78% of Oregon City voters approved ODOT's plan to use John Storm Park and Sportcraft Boat Ramp Park to widen the I-205 bridge above the city parks.
If the Abernethy Bridge project moves forward, a temporary work bridge would need to be constructed on a large portion of Oregon City park property. ODOT also is requesting permanent easements for subsurface shafts that would be buried underneath the park to help stabilize the work bridge.
ODOT officials said that the Sportcraft Boat Ramp and associated fixtures will be temporarily closed for up to two seven-day periods during construction. Sportcraft owner Eric Dye said that the city and ODOT have his family "between a rock and a hard place."
"If I don't make a deal with the city, then I don't get compensated from ODOT, so that's why I'm so stuck," he said. "They're coming at us really hard right now, and my attorney agrees that they want to push us out."
Dye said he counteroffered that the city grant him a lease through the end of 2022 but that the city rejected his offer. The city wants Sportcraft to backpay a higher monthly lease amount through the expiration of the lease in June 2020; the marina has been operating without paying rent to the city since its lease expired last year.
"They want us to commit to do improvements to the marina, but we have no secure future there," he said. "We have no choice but to comply because they control our access."
ODOT plans to acquire submersible property that Oregon City leases from Oregon's Department of State Lands and in turn subleases to Sportcraft Landing. Citing the public interest and Oregon public-records law, Pamplin Media Group on Oct. 12 requested copies of Oregon City's submersible land lease with the state and its lease with Sportcraft that expired in June 2020. As of Oct. 20, the city had not released the public documents.
ODOT officials said that marine access to the Sportcraft Landing marina will be maintained throughout I-205 construction, pending the demolition of a portion of dock used by Ballard Marine Construction.
According to the recent court filing, Sportcraft's pedestrian and marine access will be available at all times during the project, except for brief closures of the boat launch.
Dye said that river access and a riverside parking lot was given to the city by the former Crown-Zellerbach paper mill on the condition that Oregon City provide an easement to the marina, but the stipulation doesn't say how much the city can charge the marina for leasing its access.
An Oregon City spokesperson said city officials have an obligation to all citizens to receive fair value for the lease of city property, which was determined by an appraisal of the property. Oregon City is asking Sportcraft for a $60,000 increase in lease payments annually, from $24,000 to $84,000. Pamplin Media Group also requested a copy of the economic analysis from the city, which has yet to release the document after more than a week.
Dye said the proposed increase in rent will likely force his third-generation family business to shutter after over 50 years.
"The moorage is not a gold mine, and it never has been," he said.
Meanwhile, ODOT is proposing to pay Sportcraft Marina for an undisclosed amount to purchase 120 feet of riverside property, which Dye said is the equivalent of three rows of the marina resulting in a $50,000 loss of annual rental income. Citing the ongoing negotiations, he declined to reveal the amount of the proposed ODOT payoff.
"I'm going to have to invest at least half of that (ODOT payment) back into the moorage in order to make the city happy," he said.
Among the tenants of the Sportcraft Marina is the Clackamas County Marine Patrol, and Dye said the sheriff's office, if evicted, also won't have anywhere else to go with similar rents. Best-case scenario if he's able to renew a lease, Dye expects he'll be "going back to square one next June to renegotiate" with city officials who will remember the trouble with the current negotiations, making future agreements even more difficult to reach.
"It's public land, so why can't I cross it to get to the water?" Dye asked. "If I am forced to move, I will still own 400 feet of frontage, and the city wants us to agree to give that up in order to get the lease, but that's not happening."
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