The Astoria City Council narrowly approved the sale of two platted piers in the Mill Pond Village neighborhood to developer John Dulcich, emphasizing property tax revenue over the views of neighbors.
The council was weighing two separate offers on what to do with the piers along the southern shore of Mill Pond donated by late developer Art DeMuro before his death in 2012. Each pier, projecting off a thin strip of shoreland, contains six buildable lots with a central walkway for access.
The city marketed the property several times but received little interest from builders. A group of neighbors proposed donating $11,500 to have the piers dedicated as city parkland. But then Dulcich, a Seattle-area developer and former Astorian, offered $35,000 to buy the lots, saying he wants to complete DeMuro’s vision.
The neighbors upped their offer to $40,000. City staff estimated it would cost $35,000 to decommission the lots, while costing the county any future property tax revenue.
Neighbors characterized Dulcich as an opportunistic developer who swooped in at the last minute with a below-market offer. They argued that the property should be preserved to help wildlife habitat and as a view corridor. A community park is next to the platted piers.
Mayor Bruce Jones said at the meeting Monday that the pond includes 26 buildable lots over water, and that the five homes on piers provide more than $28,000 combined in property tax revenue. That DeMuro donated the platted piers instead of unplatted land means he likely wanted them to provide housing and property tax benefits, Jones said.
“If we don’t sell them and allow them to generate that property tax revenue, we’re taking that money out of the hands of all the beneficiaries of property tax revenue in the county,” he said.
City Councilor Tom Brownson said he’d be all for neighbors purchasing the properties and keeping them on the tax roll, but sided with Jones’ argument.
Councilor Joan Herman said she sees the south shore of Mill Pond as a resource to the entire community the city should preserve. While accepting Dulcich’s offer was more competitive, Councilor Jessamyn West sided with Herman’s view.
Councilor Roger Rocka, who ended up being the swing vote, said he likes the idea of more green space amid the surrounding development but wasn’t sure it was appropriate for the council to shortchange other taxpayers. After a dramatic pause, he agreed to go along with the sale to Dulcich in the 3-2 vote.
Dulcich testified to his family’s long background in Astoria, including a late father who worked in athletics for the Astoria High School football team and a mother who was a speech pathologist and still lives locally.
“I love the Mill Pond,” he said. “It’s a beautiful area. I want to live there, and I want to develop some homes there. And that’s my goal. There’s nothing nefarious going on.”