The saga of Alpenrose Dairy and its popular community facilities on the southwestern edge of Portland is not over, and a recent court ruling doesn't necessarily mean an end to public access.
Though a judge last week rejected a lawsuit to block the sale of Alpenrose Dairy to Washington-based Smith Brothers Farms, a lawyer for the dairy as well as its president say the community's fears over access to the facilities it has hosted for decades are exaggerated.
While the sale of the dairy business has been authorized by the board, that sale hasn't gone through yet. And even if it does, it won't directly affect ownership of the land that hosts three ball fields used for baseball and softball, a bicycle racing track, a midget-car racing track, the western-themed Dairyville village used for holiday celebrations and a 600-seat Opera House used for community theater — operations that the family offered the community free of charge for decades, as a philanthropic gesture.
Still another wild card is a pending mediation ordered by the judge.
According to a joint statement by the buyer and the current Alpenrose ownership, public access to the property "will not be affected by the sale."
"Nothing's been decided, but everyone is committed to talking about these issues and working together," said lawyer Nick Henderson, who represents the dairy's board. "The companies that I represent are ready to encourage Smith Brothers to be engaged in that process and work together."
While Smith Brothers will own and operate the dairy, the land that it sits on will continue to be controlled by the family members who just agreed to sell the dairy.
And contrary to fears the land would be sold for redevelopment in as little as two years, nothing in the pending agreement means the land will be converted for any other use, according to Henderson.
Rod Birkland, the president of Alpenrose, and a co-owner of the land it sits on, said Smith Brothers plans to bring home delivery of milk, cheese and processed meats to greater Portland, and if that goes well there's no reason for the dairy to go away. He said his family, steeped in the business, don't want to sell the land if it will interfere with the dairy continuing.
"I don't want to do that," Birkland said. "I've known guys here for 40 years ... there's three brothers that work here and their dad worked here his whole life .. I mean, it sounds corny, but it's not."
In February the news broke that Alpenrose could be sold, members of the family that started the dairy and family entertainment complex, Carl Cadonau III, Cary Cadonau and Tracey Cadonau McKinnon, filed a lawsuit to prevent an older generation of family members who controlled the dairy's board — including Birkland — from selling it. In March, the Tribune reported that the mystery buyer was Smith Brothers Farms.
However, the deal dissolved and the lawsuit was dropped.
Then, in August, a new sale to Smith Brothers was made public, and the three members of the younger generation sued again, seeking an injunction to stop the sale — saying they'd made a better offer to the Alpenrose board.
While the younger Cadonaus stressed their desire to keep the facilities open, documents made public by the litigation suggested they also sought to either keep their jobs at the dairy — two of them work there and a third was a lawyer for the Alpenrose's outside law firm — or be granted part-ownership.
On Sept 24, following five days of arguments over legalities, Circuit Judge Jerry B. Hodson allowed the sale to go forward. But he also ordered family members to go into mediation to try to resolve some of the issues in dispute.
The lawyer who sued to block the deal says that an Alpenrose board vote two days after the judge's ruling, to authorize the sale, may be at odds with the judge's intent.
'The judge told us to mediate," said Jonathan Radmacher. "We think the only chance we have to really mediate is that to some extent we put the brakes on both the litigation and the transaction."
Henderson, however, disagreed. "The judge didn't order the preliminary injunction. He didn't order that the parties stand still."
While the board authorized the sale, several details have to be worked out, Henderson added. "The board is ... considering everything it needs to consider including all of the issues that were discussed at the hearing."
The community members engaged in the fate of the dairy land are waiting for clarity.
"It's so far up in the air it isn't funny," said Mike Workman, who's volunteered for years at the dairy to maintain the facilities there, including the ball fields used for the Little League Softball World Series. "There's too many unanswered questions. We don't know what we're going to do about Christmas or the World Series next year. It's really hard to say."
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the sale here.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.