St. Helens to finalize $3.49M sale of 8-acre piece of property
UPDATED: After an hour-and-a-half public forum, the St. Helens City Council voted 3-0 Thursday night, Nov. 15 to approve a resolution that allows the city to finalize a sale agreement for no less than $3.48 million for an 8.2-acre piece of property to a cannabis cultivation park business.
During the council vote Thursday, councilor Keith Locke abstained from the vote. Council member Doug Morten was absent from the meeting.
According to an appraisal document provided at the meeting, the 8.21 parcel of land is valued at $1.55 million.
The city council hosted a public forum and vote Thursday night which drew a crowd of nearly 30 people to city hall.
During the public forum, one person spoke in favor of the resolution, several gave neutral testimony, while the majority of those in attendance spoke in opposition.
Many cited concerns about the city allowing an agricultural-based business to operate on what was described as prime industrial land.
Others who spoke were also concerned about promoting the marijuana industry and the possible over saturation of product by growing more in Columbia County.
The period for public testimony was often peppered by short rounds of applause from meeting attendees who cheered after certain audience members spoke. A legal representative from the city's law firm, Jordan Ramis, also spoke up at times to answer legal questions, while City Planner Jacob Graichen also added details that pertained to the layout of the proposed property for sale or other details. Mayor Rick Scholl also notedly responded to some comments made by the public and would engage in back-and-forth conversations or add comments he described as "for the record" during the public hearing.
When the council voted during its regular session meeting, it did so acting on behalf of the city's urban renewal district as well as the city council since the property for sale lies within the urban renewal boundary.
The proposed sale was first brought before the council in June, but the agreement was not finalized at that time. The council made a motion to have a draft sale agreement between ACSP LLC later that month.
Locke, who has developed a friendship with one of the business partners, Alex Reverman of Portland, and took a trip with him last winter to Mexico, abstained from the vote in June, but recommended the council take action on the sale agreement at that meeting. He abstained from the public hearing and council vote Thursday night.
The proposed sale agreement was essentially the conversion of a lease agreement entered into by the city and ACSP in June 2017, City Administrator John Walsh explained. A copy of the draft sale agreement was obtained through a public records request in June. A second request for a copy of the most recent sale agreement was not filled by the Spotlight's press deadline.
In July, Al Petersen, a St. Helens business owner and resident, filed a complaint with the city, alleging it violated Oregon law during the public hearing. Several other residents also voiced their concerns about the lack of information available at the time of the first forum, but did not file official complaints.
In August, St. Helens lawyers Robert VanNatta and Agnes Petersen — Al Petersen's mother — filed a civil lawsuitagainst the city, the city council and representatives from ACSP. The lawsuit outlines a series of allegations made by VanNatta and Agnes Petersen, including the city and council's failure to follow proper procedures during the June public hearing. The document also identifies concerns about the legality of the limited liability company and points to various other LLCs connected to ACSP and Reverman. The case is ongoing in circuit court.
Both Petersens spoke in opposition to the sale Thursday night, citing concerns about procedural aspects of the process, like the failure to publish a property appraisal document until the night of the hearing, among other concerns.
A copy of the appraisal was provided by legal counsel halfway through the meeting for those in attendance.
Thursday night's public hearing and any actions taken by the council will supersede any previously made decisions, according to city documents made public in advance of the meeting. The meeting agenda packet included a two-page partition map outlining the boundaries of the property proposed for sale.
Additionally, the packet included a proposed resolution authorizing the sale of the property. The resolution outlined a variety of reasons for the sale of the property, the sale price and other details. Of note, the resolution states the sale of the property, which lies in the city's urban renewal district, falls within the urban renewal plan to sell properties not being used for public improvements.