Neighbors Question Whether City Got Market Value for Water Bureau Land

Multnomah Village homeowners who want the Portland Water Bureau to cancel the sale of land around a decommissioned water tank are now questioning whether the city got fair market value when it sold the property to infill developer Renaissance Homes last year.

The coalition of neighbors has sent a letter asking the Water Bureau—and City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees it—to show them the process the city used to sell the surplus property for $140,000 to the homebuilder.

"They said the whole point of doing it was to get the best deal for the ratepayers," says Chris Lyons, who is organizing the Multnomah Village group called Woods Park Advocates. "But we still don't know how they conducted the sale. We feel like $140,000 is significantly under the fair market value."

As WW first reported, Multnomah Village residents are upset the city quietly sold the property on the 8700 block of Southwest 42nd Avenue in an effort to help reduce ballooning water bills. Neighbors say the property is home to wildlife, including more than 20 pileated woodpeckers.

The City cut the price from its assessed value of $240,000 last December because Renaissance agreed to pay for demolishing the old tank. City documents show the land could be subdivided into 2 to 4 lots for single-family homes.

Residents ask if the city ever placed the property on the open market.

"If you were selling a property, would you not let anybody know?" asks Jeremy Solomon, who lives near the water tank. " How would the market know? How would you get a fair price? The didn't put a 'For Sale' sign on it."

Fish sent a letter of response to Woods Park Advocates today, saying the Water Bureau did advertise the property online.

"In this instance, the 2010 Council hearing and 2012 online advertising of the sales constituted public notice," Fish writes. "In the future, I have directed the Water Bureau to take steps to expand public notice, and plan to explore a City-wide policy change that would require broader notice to the affected communities by all bureaus."

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