St. Helens residents protest property sale to pot grower
St. Helens residents are protesting the city's decision to sell a portion of its former industrial property to a would-be marijuana grow facility, alleging the City Council didn't follow the proper procedures during a public sale hearing last month.
St. Helens resident and business owner Al Petersen filed a letter of protest and appeal with the city on July 11. In that letter, Petersen argues the city failed to properly adhere to Oregon law when it held a public hearing in late June for a 9.5-acre piece of city-owned property at the former Boise Inc. pulp and paper mill to business hopefuls aiming to establish a cannabis cultivation park.
While Petersen was the only one to file a formal letter with the city, several others spoke out during a City Council work session Wednesday, July 18, arguing that the city failed to disclose who it was selling the property to and to provide documentation of the property's assessed value, two procedural items required by state law.
City Administrator John Walsh, who was not at the meeting, stated that Petersen likely was just unaware that much of the information he sought was available at the meeting in a public document binder provided at the back of the room.
Petersen noted, however, that a published packet of supporting documents on the city's website contains no information about the sale other than a map outlining the property. The Spotlight only received a copy of the draft sale agreement after filing a request for public records from the city when details were found to be missing from the board packet. The request was filled just prior to the public hearing.
St. Helens resident Patrick Birkle stated similar concerns Wednesday and questioned the council's decision-making.
During Wednesday's council meeting, Walsh added that he was happy to provide details about the proposed sale agreement describing the
$3.4 million purchase price for 9.5 acres.
Last June, the city agreed to lease the property to ACSP LLC with an option to purchase the property after five years for $3 million. Many elements of the sale agreement are based on a conversion of the lease agreement into a sale document, Walsh explained.
In this case, an owner-initiated loan payment for the property is outlined in the lease document, Walsh explained. The loan includes a 4 percent interest rate and balloon payment after five years.
ACSP has been a registered business in Oregon since February 2017 and is tied to a Portland-based man, Alex Reverman. The company is an offshoot of a California grower that operates several grow facilities in the state. Business filings link Reverman with another holding company, ASR Holdings LLC, which dissolved earlier this year, in April.
Petersen explained that news of the lease agreement seemed to appear "out of the blue" and caught residents off guard. News of a proposed sale agreement was even more surprising, he said.
"The lease took everyone by surprise. I think the community had great expectations about what the Boise White paper property could be used for in the future, but there was no planning," Petersen said.
In addition to his procedural concerns, Petersen said he feels like the city is not looking at the long-term impact of the sale. Over the past 10 years the city has developed numerous plans for transportation systems, system development, and waterfront development and planning, but little has been to incorporate the former white paper site into the plans, Petersen said.
Walsh explained that a second hearing will likely not be held and the city and buyers legal representatives continue to discuss fine details of the proposed sale agreement.