District, City of West Linn back at Oppenlander negotiating table
Following widespread community outcry last week — including a large rally and an online petition signed by 1,800 people — over the potential sale of Oppenlander Fields on Rosemont Road in West Linn, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District intends to restart talks about the city potentially acquiring the 10-acre property.
The district, which announced it was taking bids from developers looking to buy Oppenlander, stated Friday, June 4, the primary focus of the renewed talks with the city is ensuring a sale to the city would be predicated on preserving the land as a park.
"The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board met on June 3, 2021, in executive session to discuss the Board's interest in revisiting a sale of the District-owned 10-acre Oppenlander property to the City of West Linn," the district's statement reads. "The meeting resulted in the School Board deciding to re-engage in conversations with the City with the primary focus of ensuring that any sale involving the City would be predicated on the property remaining a community park. While these conversations will continue to be held in executive session, outcomes will be made public."
For 40 years, the Oppenlander fields have been used by local baseball and soccer teams for games and practices, as well as by residents walking their dogs or enjoying the open space.
In response to last week's outcry, the city of West Linn stated it originally was open to purchasing the land, but told the district it would first need to put a bond on the November ballot. The bond was the city's solution to financing the purchase because the local government does not have the $6.5 million the district wanted for Oppenlander.
"The City Council discussed this in confidential Executive Session, as it does all real estate matters. The offered price far exceeded funds readily available to the City in the budget for a land purchase," Mayor Jules Walters said at a special meeting Thursday, May 27. "Initially, the District was receptive to the Council's proposed option agreement, but shortly thereafter, the School Board concluded that this timeline did not meet the District's needs, and informed the Council that they would be moving to sell the property on the open market."
Based on that meeting, members of the council seemed to favor keeping the land as fields and open space.
At the special meeting, city staffers told the council that they would have a short timeframe to prepare the bond for November's ballot.
The district's new statement did not mention a specific date by which it hoped to have the deal done, but community members at a Rosemont Summit Neighborhood Association, (which encompasses Oppenlander) meeting June 3 noted that the value of the land would likely only rise with time. Even if the city's bond failed to pass in November, the district potentially could receive more money for the land from developers.
One attendee of the meeting noted that in 2019, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District deeded approximately 10 acres of land near Meridian Creek Middle School to the city of Wilsonville. Those at the meeting agreed that if Wilsonville received this kind of deal from the district, so should the city of West Linn.
However, the Meridian Creek land, in Wilsonville's Frog Pond area, was given to the city as part of a land trade. Several years prior to that, the city gave the district land in the Villebois neighborhood, which the district used to build Lowrie Primary School.
Members of the RSNA also noted that, in a way, West Linn taxpayers already paid for the Oppenlander land when the school district purchased it in 1979. Was it fair for taxpayers to pay for the same land again through a city general obligation bond, they asked.
"It's like paying twice for my car," RSNA President Abby Farber said.
"I'm getting incensed about this," said another meeting attendee. "Every piece of information we get about this makes me angrier and angrier."
The RSNA voted to encourage the city to put the matter up for a vote as a GO bond measure.
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