Astoria leaders are abandoning efforts to sell property in Mill Pond Village after neighboring property owners offered to donate money to help the city decommission the lots instead.
The city has paid more than $64,000 in homeowners association fees on the 12 overwater lots since the property was donated in 2012 by the creator of Mill Pond Village, Portland developer Art DeMuro. The city had budgeted an additional $13,000 to cover fees this fiscal year.
DeMuro hoped the eventual sale of the lots could help fund future city projects, such as the Garden of Surging Waves or the redevelopment of Heritage Square downtown. However, the city has struggled to sell the lots, which are smaller than other lots in Mill Pond Village and costly to develop, requiring the construction of two overwater piers before any homes could be built.
Since the City Council voted to list the property again last year, the city has not received a single offer. The lots were listed for sale for $90,000.
On Monday, the City Council gave City Manager Brett Estes the go-ahead to work instead with neighboring property owners. They have become accustomed to an unobstructed view across the pond and offered to donate around $11,500 to help defray the cost of decommissioning the lots and ensure no development occurs over the water. The property would be considered public land and not subject to homeowners association fees.
“So this is really great, I think,” City Councilor Tom Brownson said.
Mayor Bruce Jones and City Councilor Roger Rocka were more hesitant.
Rocka, concerned about letting go of rare buildable land, noted that the lots “may not be attractive now because of the cost of development, but five years from now that could change.”
Jones wondered about the cost to the city of decommissioning the lots. Public Works Director Jeff Harrington said it will cost the city an estimated $15,000 to decommission the utilities which run underneath the street and remove water meters, among other changes.
“So every dime of this would go to that,” Harrington said, referencing the proposed donation from the Mill Pond property owners.
But, Jones concluded, “clearly nobody’s expressing any interest (in the property) so I’m ready to move forward.”
City staff still need to work out the details of how the transaction will take place and how the lots will be decommissioned.
“We’re truly having to develop a process because this is a new and unique situation I can’t recall having to deal with before,” Estes said after the meeting.
He hopes to return with a proposal for the City Council to consider later this summer.