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Ashland council candidate wants Parsons Pine owners to trade for alleyways

ASHLAND ' A council candidate wants the city to get a small piece of land for affordable housing if it agrees to vacate alleys that had a wood products plant built on top of them in the 1940s.

Brent Thompson, a former councilman and planning commissioner who is running for council position No. 2, says the city should gain something of value if it vacates the alleys underneath the former Parsons Pine Products Inc. plant. The building and 1.38 acre site, now owned by Meridian Park Medical Foundation in Portland, are for sale.

We probably want to get the alleys vacated so they can do something there, said Thompson. But the land they are getting should be traded. It would be nice if some dwelling could be built there, and the land costs could be free.

An attorney for Meridian has sent a letter to 46 neighboring property owners to seek consent for the vacation. Two-thirds of the owners must agree before the City Council would consider the action.

Parsons declared bankruptcy in 1999. A warranty deed from Robert and Brenda Gardiner gave the property to Meridian, trustee for the benefit of the Gardiner Charitable Trust of Tualatin, in October 2000. The Gardiners purchased the property from Parsons in October 1997 for &

36;1,250,000, according to Jackson County records.

We are evaluating (Thompson's) request, said attorney Michelle Rudd of Portland's Stoel Rives firm. Cities often require certain exactions in terms of development proposals. It's a little less common in terms of vacations.

We've had several interested buyers, said Bill Leever of Pulver & Leever Real Estate Co. They are waiting to make sure the problem is resolved before they pursue their interests.

The property is priced at &

36;995,000. Hersey and Helman streets and the Central Oregon Pacific Railroad tracks border the site.

The city has retained some access rights in previous vacations. About six years ago the city retained a pedestrian access, said City Attorney Paul Nolte. A 20-foot portion of Ross Lane was retained for pedestrians 10 to 15 years ago, said Councilman Don Laws.

We have been doing it when we can, said Laws. The concept of doing it for low-cost housing has a lot of appeal.

Any land trade should be weighed against the developer's needs, said Laws.

Probably 80 percent of the time it wouldn't be anything we can do, Laws said. But 20 percent of the time if they can, I'm certainly in favor, and we do have some history of that.

The alleys are estimated at 2,500 to 3,000 square feet. Dwellings have been built on lots as small as 2,000 square feet, said Thompson. Wes Vail developed a 3,400-square-foot site on the south side of Helman next to the tracks. It includes space for two businesses downstairs and an apartment upstairs.

If land cannot be obtained for housing, Thompson would like to see a bike path easement along the property line next to the railroad tracks or perhaps a small park.

Former Councilman Brent Thompson is asking the city to make a trade with the current owners of the Parsons Pine Products' mill site in Ashland. The property owners want the city to vacate alleys on the property. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven