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Portland Community College exercises eminent domain authority for property in Scappoose

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Portland Community Colleges proposed training center in Scappoose was set for a 17-acre lot on Wagner Court until this summer, when PCC announced that the seller had abruptly backed out. Now, PCC is working to force a sale.Portland Community College filed a complaint in Columbia County Circuit Court earlier this week to move forward on obtaining land in Scappoose for the college's proposed training center.

In September, PCC's board of directors authorized condemnation proceedings to gain ownership of an empty lot on Wagner Court.

PCC has been in negotiations with the property owners, SPB Holdings LLC, for more than a year. The sale appeared set to proceed until a few months ago, when PCC staff found out SPB Holdings was pulling out.

PCC's board of directors gave the go-ahead to initiate eminent domain proceedings just a month later.

PCC staff delivered a condemnation offer letter to SPB Holdings on Sept. 24. That letter had a 40-day window, after which PCC could pursue legal action should the landowner reject PCC's final offer.

Under state law, government agencies can force a landowner to sell property under eminent domain.

In the complaint filed Nov. 5, after the 40-day window, PCC offered $3.19 million for the property, which is slightly above the most recent assessed value available from Columbia County.

According to the complaint, PCC deposited that sum with the court clerk.

PCC requested a 12-person jury to evaluate the compensation.

On Wednesday, Nov. 6, PCC issued notice to the defendants that the college will take possession of the property after 10 days unless a defendant files an objection. An objection in this case can only be made to determine if the condemnation is legal or if the condemner, PCC, "has acted in bad faith, engaged in fraud, or engaged in an abuse of discretion under a delegation of authority."

The court filing names SPB Holdings as one defendant, but also names Old West Federal Credit Union, Blum Family Dynasty Inc., and Columbia County.

SPB Holdings is registered to Mike and Judith Dennis, founders of Oregon Aero Inc., which operates at Scappoose Industrial Airpark. The property owners owe $87,727 in unpaid property taxes and interest from the last two years, plus $37,804 due Nov. 15.

A PCC training center in Scappoose has been in the works for years, with a planned partnership between PCC and OMIC R&D. PCC has planned to invest $24 million to construct a 31,000-square-foot facility on the site, which is across West Lane Road from the OMIC R&D campus.

Earlier this year, PCC leaders had said they aimed to begin construction by fall, with classes starting in the new facility in fall 2020.

When the Spotlight first reported on the sale falling apart, on Sept. 13, Scappoose City Planner Laurie Oliver said that if the college selected a new property, it would take at least six months for planning and permitting before construction could begin. Retaining the same site means the college won't have to re-do those processes.

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