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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tell Marion Co. Commissioners "No to Selling Park Land"

There is going to be a public hearing this coming week (10/1, 9:30 a.m.) about a proposal to sell off a piece of public park land that would set a dangerous precedent for Marion County.

Spong's Landing is one of Marion County's premier public parks, and is located on the Willamette River just north of Keizer. Some years ago, a property owner adjoining the park built a fence around his property which extended significantly onto park land. He subsequently sold the property to new owners. It is not clear what the new owners knew when they purchased the property, but if they had done their homework they should have discovered that the property they were buying was not as big as advertised.

In any case, now that the problem has been revealed, they are proposing to buy the land in question from the county.

The law is very clear about what should happen in a case such as this: The landowner must pay to move the fence. Selling park property is only allowed if doing so is clearly in the public interest.

It is hard to make a case that selling part of Spong's Landing Park is in the public interest, as Marion County already has a shortage of parkland relative to its population. To allow the landowner in this case to pay some modest sum to keep the land would set a dangerous precedent for other landowners who might covet a little piece of public park adjoining their property.

Please come and let the County Commissioners know our park lands are not for sale. The hearing will be at 9:30 am on Wednesday, October 1st in the Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court Street NE in Salem.
Of course, this also says that county personnel were negligent in failing to note the boundary when the original owner put a fence on county parkland. Still, assuming Oregon follows the general rule, then you can't obtain ownership of public land through adverse possession -- no matter how long the fence is there, if it is on public land, it is a trespass. And, in this case, damage to land because it prevents the public from accessing land that it owns.

The only issue for this hearing should be how long it will take for the current owners to remove their fence.

If you can't come to the hearing this coming Wednesday morning (9:30 a.m., in the county building next to the Transit Center on Court St., across from the County Courthouse), at least contact the commissioners and tell them NOT to sell any public lands to private owners, especially not to reward misbehavior and/or negligence by owners of private lots next to public parks. Here's the contact information for the commissioners if you can't make the meeting:

Sam Brentano
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E-mail: sabrentano@co.marion.or.us
Phone: 503-588-5212

Janet Carlson
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E-mail: jcarlson@co.marion.or.us
Phone: 503-588-5212

Patti Milne
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E-mail: pmilne@co.marion.or.us
Phone: 503-588-5212