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Environmental group joins fights against sale of Water Bureau property

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Southwest Portland residents (from left) Jeremy Solomon, Terri Preeg Riggsby and Bill Kielhorn walked though the three-quarter acre city parcel they want preserved.Neighborhood opposition to developing surplus Water Bureau property in Southwest Portland is gaining support, even though the controversy has not yet achieved the public visibility of other anti-infill campaigns.

The environmental advocacy group Oregon Wild has come out against the sale of the unused Freeman reservoir tank to Renaissance Homes. The development company is purchasing the property from the city for $140,000 in a deal scheduled to be completed by the end of January.

The three-fourths of an acre parcel is at 8711 S.W. 42nd Ave. Residents near the property and others are fighting the sale on several grounds, arguing that the land is adjacent to a natural area owned by Metro and the city and should be preserved for environmental reasons. They also say the sales price is unrealistically low, even though Renaissance Homes would be responsible for demolishing and removing the concrete tank and much of the underground piping system. And they complain the city did not notify neighbors about the pending sale.

The fight has not yet generated as much publicity as those pitting neighbors against skinny homes or large apartments with limited parking. But opponents have formed a nonprofit organization called Woods Park Advocate after a nearby park. They have affiliated with the Multnomah Neighborhood Association to raise funds and hire an attorney. Other supporters include the Ashcreek Neighborhood Association, Crestwood Neighborhood Association, and Friends of Woods Park.

The City Council approved the sale of the site and other surplus water bureau properties in June 2010. Commissioner Nick Fish, who is in charge of the bureau, was absent. He says the city must continue with the sale because it has signed a contract with Renaissance Homes.