WARRENTON — A controversial subdivision project may have to start over.
The deed that developer and former Warrenton Mayor Gil Gramson holds for land near Clear Lake does not match his plans to create a 15-plot subdivision.
“This is something they obviously missed when they bought (the property) back in 2017,” said Kevin Cronin, the city’s community development director.
Following an appeals hearing in June in front of the City Commission, where doubts over whether the parcel had ever been partitioned into a legal lot first surfaced, Cronin confirmed with the Clatsop County surveyor that, no, it had not. Without this important step in place, the property cannot be subdivided.
Cronin will recommend the City Commission reject Gramson’s project during a hearing next week. The project had been approved with conditions by the Planning Commission in April, but was appealed to the City Commission.
If commissioners agree with Cronin, Gramson will need to obtain the correct type of deed and resubmit a subdivision application to the city if he wants to continue with the project.
Gramson could not be reached for comment. Skip Urling, a retired city planner who has been representing him, said they will likely not challenge Cronin’s findings or his recommendation. Urling is not sure what Gramson plans to do next.
“There are a couple of variables that will probably play into (Gramson’s) decision for what to do with the property,” he said.
Issues with deeds are not uncommon, especially a deed like the one Gramson needs to obtain that involves a property line adjustment, according to Vance Swenson, the county surveyor.
“When they wrote the deed, they didn’t use the right language,” he explained of Gramson’s situation.
He always recommends people consult with a land use attorney, their title company and a surveyor when attempting to write up such a document. More often than not, he said, “if you try to do it yourself, you goof it up.”
Gramson was told early on what kind of deed he would need, Swenson said.
The question of whether Gramson had the correct deed in the first place is not one that would normally surface when city planning staff are evaluating a subdivision proposal — or even when a contract planner like Urling is taking on the project.
“It’s not something I look at as a matter of course,” Cronin said.
Both Cronin and Urling said they assume at that juncture that the developer has the correct documents in place to go ahead with a more involved process like a subdivision.
“I may take this as a learning opportunity and ask to see (the deed) ahead of time from here on out,” Urling said.
The Planning Commission had approved Gramson’s application with conditions in April. Gramson objected to several conditions and appealed to the City Commission. Gramson’s brother, Rod Gramson, who is opposed to the project, also appealed over concerns about impacts to wetlands and determinations the Planning Commission made that his representatives argued were counter to the city’s rules.
At the appeals hearing in front of the City Commission, homeowners in the neighboring Smith Lake Improvement Inc. — also opposed to the Clear Lake subdivision — questioned whether the land had ever been partitioned into a legal lot. They could not find any records of this necessary step being taken, they told the City Commission.
Given the new information and uncertainty, commissioners said they were uncomfortable making a decision and voted to continue the hearing until Tuesday to give staff time to look into the matter.