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.

Mill Pond overview

The Astoria City Council approved the sale of two platted piers in the Mill Pond Village to developer John Dulcich.

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.”

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

(1) comment

Barry Plotkin

As I've said before, I don't own property in Mill Pond Village, but I did thoroughly research its history before writing a letter some months ago arguing against the encroachment of Steamwhistle Way in the Co-op's original site plan. Now I am writing about the City's decision to sell the lots that Art DeMuro willed to the City. I support the City's plan, although I know nothing about the developer. The point is that Mill Pond Village was developed according to a vision of a "livable" urban neighborhood. The goal was not to create an enclave for wealthy property owners, but rather to take a super-fund brownfield site and return it to a useful purpose which would benefit the City and all its residents long into the future. The process that made this vision into reality involved a tremendous amount of co-operation among federal, state, county, and city officials. Those who bought into Mill Pond Village need to realize that their "privilege" is subordinate to that original vision. In fact, the strict rules of the Mill Pond Village Homeowner's Association codify that vision. It is natural that property owners in Mill Pond Village are concerned about their views and their property values, but a review of the history should convince them that the City has every right to sell these properties, but also that the developer will be bound by the same rules as everyone else who owns property in Mill Pond Village. As long as the HOA and the City respect the rules governing development there, it is unlikely that the outcome could be bad.

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