Mayor's Committee on the Amazon Headwaters

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Officially, the "Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition"

Approved Final Report (PDF): Amazon_Report_20080612-01.pdf

Contents

Final Report

The full Mayorʼs Ad Hoc Committee on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition met ten times from January through June 6, 2008, plus a brief final meeting on June 12, 2008.

  • January 31, 2008
  • February 6, 2008
  • February 22, 2007
  • March 5, 2008
  • March 19, 2008
  • April 17, 2008
  • May 1, 2008
  • May 23, 2008
  • June 2, 2008
  • June 6, 2008
  • June 12, 2008

The email check for strict consensus, agreed to by the committee at the June 6 meeting, achieved 87% approval and no registered disapproval after two editing rounds, with 7 votes to approve, and one committee cavite house and lot member not responding.

The non-response of one member in the email consensus process triggered a short final meeting on June 12, 2008, attended by four committee members, where this final report was approved by a vote of three to one.

Approved Final Report (PDF): Amazon_Report_20080612-01.pdf


Draft Report Working Content

Please Note

Primary assembly of the draft final report occurred offline, with candidate versions in PDF format distributed among the committee by email for review. ONLY the final PDF version above is the official consensus-minus-one committee report.

First candidate draft of final report for internal committee review (PDF): Amazon_Report_20080609-02.pdf
Second candidate draft of final report for internal committee review (PDF): Amazon_Report_20080610-01.pdf
Third candidate draft of final report for internal committee review (PDF): Amazon_Report_20080611-01.pdf

This is a working page for a document or documents in development by the Eugene Mayor's Committee on the Amazon Headwaters. As a work in progress, it does not necessarily represent the opinion or view of the committee or any of its members. It is not suitable for any quotation or publication elsewhere.

DRAFT Final Report

Introduction

The Mayor's Committee on the Amazon Headwaters was assembled and convened in early 2008 to assist in the process of protecting the Amazon Headwaters properties commonly known as the Green and Beverly properties.

These properties are known in the neighborhood as the East Fork Amazon Headwater Forest (Green) and the Amazon Headwaters Keystone (Beverly). Protecting the headwaters of Amazon Creek is vital to the water quality and environmental health of the whole watershed.

With the Amazon Creek ecosystem as the defining geographic province for about 60% of the area of Eugene, preserving the remaining fraction of ecologically intact headwaters is critical. The remaining natural headwaters of our primary local watershed are a core community asset, and we have a responsibility to preserve this core asset for future generations.

Our community has made great strides in protecting substantial portions of the wetlands in west Eugene, and we have protected the Amazon Greenway to the west and to the south of the downtown area. Protecting the headwaters is critical to realizing the environmental value of these other community investments.

The Green and Beverly headwaters areas are home to several rare, threatened, and sensitive species, due to the special habitats they provide. They are important to preserve for this biological reason. The headwaters include old growth trees and oak savannah habitats which are some of highest quality wildlife habitat in the metropolitan area.

Charge to the Committee

February 4, 2008 Mayor's Committee on the Amazon Headwaters

COMMITTEE CHARGE

The Ad-Hoc Mayor's Committee on the Amazon Headwaters is charged to research what can be done to protect the Amazon Headwaters properties (commonly known as the Green and Beverly properties) without the use of eminent domain.

In executing this charge it is anticipated the committee will:

  • Determine if the properties can be acquired from a willing seller. Determine at what price such sale is possible;
  • Understand that separate approaches and plans may be necessary for each property;
  • Determine if non-city funds can be acquired to provide at least 50% of the purchase funding;
  • Determine if the property owners will execute a purchase agreement which will allow the City time to pursue grant opportunities;
  • Determine the extent of protection that will be provided by regulatory protections currently in place.

The Committee will sunset after reporting its findings to City Council prior to the end of July 2008.

History

At least since the 1970s, both the City of Eugene and community members have recognized the overall importance of the Amazon Creek Headwaters as a vital part of Eugene’s emblematic south hills and primary local watershed. In the 1990s, portions of each of the original landholdings, remnants of which are currently the Green and Beverly properties, were acquired for conservation through the City parks department.

Over the current decade, several initiatives by the Eugene City Council and by concerned citizens have attempted to acquire part or all of the remaining portions of these properties.

Green Property Timeline
  • October 2001. Southern portion (54 acres) purchased with POS bond and some stormwater funds. Property owner continues to market the northern portion (early price is approximately $800,000).
  • December 2001. City staff presents property owner with offer for 8.5-acre stream corridor portion of the remaining 39-acre site for corridor protection. Other negotiations ensue.
  • May 2004. Property owner completes sale to third party for $325,000.
  • Circa December, 2006. Hearing Official denies a 113 lot PUD based on insufficient geotechnical information.
  • April 18, 2007. Council requested a Eminent Domain ordinance for Green and Beverly to be taken to public hearing (held May 21, 2007).
  • January 24, 2008. City Attorney Letter to Council outlining Joe Green’s offer to sell
  • June 18, 2008, Wednesday. Council Executive Session. Packet closes Wednesday, June 11.
  • July 16, 2008. Notice due to property owner to either terminate or extend purchase option for Green property.
Beverly Property Timeline

Three separate PUD applications have been submitted for the Beverly property. The first, known as West Creek PUD (City file PD 98-12), was a request for 21 residential lots, and only applied to Tax Lot 300 of the subject property. The application was withdrawn the day of the public hearing, and did not receive a favorable staff recommendation. The applicant then submitted property line adjustments (City files LA 99-46 and 99-47) in conjunction with the City’s acquisition of a portion (approximately 13 acres) of Tax Lot 101 of the subject property.

South Park PUD (PD 00-2) was a proposal for tentative planned unit development of a 57-lot single-family residential subdivision. The Eugene Hearings Official denied this application due to lack of compliance with several tentative PUD criteria, including compliance with the South Hills Study, tree preservation and natural feature protection. On appeal, the Planning Commission upheld the Hearings Official’s denial of the application.

The most recent PUD application for the Beverly property, known as Deerbrook PUD (City files PDT 06-2) was a proposal for 91 dwellings on 26.5 acres. Following the release of the staff report recommending denial on the basis of a number of tentative PUD criteria, including compliance with the South Hills Study, tree preservation and natural feature protection, and prior to the public hearing before the Hearings Official, this application was withdrawn by the applicant.

Committee Meetings
  • January 31, 2008 First Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • February 6, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • February 22, 2007 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • March 5, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • March 19, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • April 17, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • May 1, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • May 23, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • June 2, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition
  • June 6, 2008 Mayor’s Committee meeting on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition

Preservation Value and Potential

The Amazon Headwaters area, including the two sites under consideration, has been recognized as having a number of important natural resource values, from being home to several endangered plant and animal species to protecting water quality in the urban watershed.

In particular, Growth Management Policy 17 says, "Protect and improve air and water quality and protect natural areas of good habitat value through a variety of means...". The Metro Plan Diagram has for years shown a habitat corridor to be preserved connecting the Ridgeline park and the Amazon Greenway. Both of these areas are bisected by Goal 5 waterways which would be damaged by development.

Going back to the 1970s, when most of the south hills were still in a natural undeveloped state, the community consensus of South Hills Study outlined the important of upland forest preservation for all of Eugene, as well as the inherent problems of developing on our steepest slopes.

Independent testing of soil and runoff samples has shown that both properties contain substantial excess arsenic which could be released into Amazon Creek by development processes.

Given that Amazon Creek already has too much arsenic by EPA standards, causing significant new releases could trigger Federal violations, as well as harm life downstream.

Documentation

The great natural resource value of the Amazon Headwaters in general, and the Green and Beverly property areas in particular, are documented in a series of public agency reports and evaluations, as well as in the work of several natural resource consultants.

City of Eugene Goal 5 Natural Resources Survey

Much of the streams through both sites are noted as Goal 5 resources with recommended development setbacks of 40 feet.

Rivers to Ridges Vision The Rivers to Ridges Vision outlines a connected system of blueways (streams and rivers) and greenways (ridges and uplands) surrounding and running through the metropolitan region. Sprinkled throughout this system are anchor sites in key locations or indicating outstanding features.The Vision Map shows Amazon Headwaters as a ”Potential, Future Open Space Anchor”. “These are areas that have been identified as potential key additions to the regional parks and open loan modification space system based on ecological, scenic, recreational, or cultural values”. (p. 6). Amazon Headwaters is identified as a short-range project based the purpose and guiding principles: Susan Lim scenic quality, recreational and education (trail connection, proximity to schools), connectivity (connects Kinney Park to Ridgeline Trail and Spencer Butte), habitat, and waterway and wetlands. (p. 15).

City of Eugene Parks Project and Priority (PROS) Plan The Plan Map No. 1 (City-wide) and Map No. 5 (South Eugene) show Natural Area park acquisitions in the Amazon Headwaters, connecting to the South Hills Ridgeline park system. Table 1 (Projects List) indicates new parks and open space through acquisition of additional Amazon Headwaters property as priority 1.

Ridgeline Area, Open Space Vision and Action Plan This plan shows future acquisitions and stream enhancements in the Upper Amazon Headwaters area. (Vision Map, p. 15).

City of Eugene Stormwater Plan (CSWMP) The Amazon Headwaters area is seen to be an important component in controlling storm water quantity and maintaining storm water quality in the Amazon basin.

Metro Waterways Study Draft. This study indicates both parcels as important watershed acquisition sites. The study includes a comprehensive proposal and set of projects for restoring water quality in the Amazon watershed.

South Hills Natural Resource Study Draft. The study shows the southern portion of the Green property as a Tier I priority for preservation.

Development Value and Potential

Both the Green and Beverly properties are zoned R1 by the City of Eugene. Part of the Beverly property is designated for residential development in the Metro Plan diagram, while part is designated as a natural resource corridor. The Green property is included on the Metro Plan diagram in the area shown for residential development. Significant portions of both properties which are zoned R1 are also included in the City of Eugene adopted Goal Five Inventory.

From a planning and development perspective, both sites are significantly challenged by their significant natural resource values and the strict regulations that apply to such sites under the land use code, including provisions of the South Hills Study and Goal 5 restrictions. Geological reports on both sites, including a LIDAR imaging analysis, indicate massive earthflows covering important areas of each site.

It is difficult to assess the ultimate development potential of these sites other than by extrapolating from most recent, rejected Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposals (see maps of Deerbrook (Beverly) and Green Valley Glen (Green) PUDs). These recent proposals have left approximately 50% of their respective sites undeveloped. To gain approval of any future development proposal, more of each site must be set aside and development further clustered to minimize impacts of the development on natural resource values. Any development of these sites must leave significant setbacks along streams and make an effort to maximize preservation of existing, significant vegetation while allowing the zoned-for development.

Cost of Acquisition

Typically the cost of property acquisition for conservation (or otherwise) is some compromise between the price sought by the seller and the price that the buyer is willing and able to pay. Public agencies are discouraged and sometimes prohibited from paying more than the formal appraised value of a property. When the appraised value, the seller's price, and the buyer's price all coincide readily, the transaction is easy and committees need not be convened.

While the acquisitions of the Green and Beverly properties are important, they are not easy. The committee has chosen not to try to fix its own number for the property value, primarily because that could be crippling to acquisition negotiations. The committee has however identified various factors which contribute to increase or decrease in the expected acquisition cost.

Factors that Add to the Property Values

COMPARABLES:

INVESTMENT PROFIT POTENTIAL:

Factors that Detract from the Property Values

COMPARABLES: Several comparable sales are used which had already received development approvals and yet there was no accounting for the costs that would be incurred for the subject property to reach that point. The previous sale of the Green property (from Katul to Green) was not used as a comparable.

DEVELOPMENT ASSUMPTIONS: The current appraisal for the Green property was based on an assumption that it could be developed according to a plan that has not been approved.

COSTS TO DEVELOP: Other than one sentence indicating that it “could cost millions” to install a shear key, there is no mention in the appraisal of the costs to develop the Green property even if a shear key were not required. Costs to install roads, build infrastructure and subdivide were not discussed, and yet they have an large impact on the risks to the buyer/owner. Ultimately these costs have a significant impact on the number of buyers willing to take such risks, and therefore on the value of the property.

ASSESSED VALUE: Joe Green asked to reduce the assessed value on his property less than two years ago.

DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION DENIALS: Neither property has had a plan approved for development. The Beverly property has not had a development proposal that was near approval.

Appraisal Issues

Members of the community have raised questions about whether the appraisals reflect the current market value of the subject properties. We recommend that the existing appraisal be reviewed for Yellow Book compliance. We also recommend that the City have an additional appraisal done by a local real estate appraiser prior to negotiations.

The negotiation strategy to date, with multiple negotiators, a lack of a well-thought out plan, and a signed option agreement before the Committee completed its work, has given away any leverage the City may have had in this process.

Potential Funding Sources

Major Grant Sources

Oregon State Parks - Land & Water Conservation Fund Grants

Oregon State Parks - Local Government Grants

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board - Land Acquisition Grants

USFS Forest Legacy Program

Oregon Department of Forestry FLP grants

Internal Funding Sources

Parks and Open Space Bond Measure

General Fund Reserve for Revenue Shortfall

Facility Reserve

PERS Litigation Reserve

Stormwater Fees

Parks SDCs

Other Sources

Private Fundraising

Land Swaps

Road, Wastewater and Wetlands Mitigation Bank

Conclusion and Recommendations

Reviewing the charge to the committee...

"...What can be done to protect the Amazon Headwaters properties without the use of eminent domain."

Including these specifics...

  • Yes. Determine if the properties can be acquired from a willing seller.
  • Partial. Determine at what price such sale is possible;
  • Yes. Understand that separate approaches and plans may be necessary for each property;
  • Partial. Determine if non-city funds can be acquired to provide at least 50% of the purchase funding;
  • Partial. Determine if the property owners will execute a purchase agreement which will allow the City time to pursue grant opportunities;
  • Partial. Determine the extent of protection that will be provided by regulatory protections currently in place.

Recommendations

  • Continue to clearly document objectives
  • Proceed on two tracks. (Reference motion passed by committee, 6 to 3 vote.) (The following is quoted from draft mnutes and needs rewording...)
The committee recommends to the Mayor and Council that the City proceed using this two-level approach:
  1. Level One: Continue with full commitment down the path of seeking grants leading to purchase of the Green property based on the existing formal appraisal, including the seller's standing commitment to start our matching funds with a 10% back-donation.
  2. Level Two: At the same time, build a case with reasonable means and elements to attempt to persuade the seller to accept an lower effective price, which would be implemented by means of increasing the seller's back-donation. Provide this case to a trusted third-party negotiator who is willing to work on our behalf with the seller to increase the City's effective discount..
  • Proceed with review of appraisal
  • Reference motion passed by committee (Revised edition of Draft April, 17, 2008 motion, 10 to 1 vote).
  • Additional recommendations to be considered on meeting of June 6, 2008.

Appendices

  • History - see Council AISs (several City documents c/o Parks Dept.)
  • Parks Dept. spreadsheet of funding sources
  • Additional reports

Other Reporting Intentions

  • References to other important documents (staff will help)
  • Note levels of agreement/consensus
  • Location map
  • A LIDAR image of each site
  • Metro Waterways map
  • Natural resource map of each site
  • Last PUD site plan for each site

Discussion of Acquisition Strategies

Acquisition process proposal from Pat

  • Identify and encumber cornerstone funding
  • Work with an expert third party negotiator and a non-profit buyer to complete acquisitions
  • City and non-profit each gets a layer of ownership, i.e. easement for one and fee-title for the other (as has been done successfully in the wetlands).

Outline of options from Art

Amazon Acquisition Options

Deciding upon a general strategy is important as it determines the range of specific actions that would be needed to succeed. Since the committee is only providing recommendations to Mayor and Council, our report should consider several general courses of action and provide our estimates of the effort and cost that would be required by each. Below see a list of strategies, not in preference order.

1. Acquisition by Condemnation under Eminent Domain

Council has tabled this action. It is still available as a course of action.

Cost: Uncertain. Likely to be at least as high as current appraisals, plus legal costs for court proceedings to determine value. There has been little public support for acquisition a current appraised values. Actions: Initiate legal proceedings. Funding sources, uncertain, but new sources seem to be needed.

2. Current Appraisal Acquisition

Current appraisals have been commissioned and received. Use these as bases for the acquisitions. One owner has become a willing seller at 90% of the appraised value, and the other has informally indicated would sell at appraisal price. Enter into option agreements to hold properties at or near these prices, while funding is acquired. To date, there has been little public support for acquisition at these prices.

Cost: Over $7 million.

Action: Raise money through grants (have submitted on Green property) and private donations, to be matched by city through possible new bond measure. Grant funding appears unlikely from OWEB and OPRD, at least in this funding cycle.

Funding Sources: Capital funds, storm water acquisition budget, existing parks bond measure and SDCs, plus a new source of funding, perhaps a supplemental bond measure with funds earmarked for these acquisitions as well as other projects distributed throughout the community.

3. Creative Acquisition through Negotiation/Partners

Negotiate lower prices, including possible schemes for partial purchase and partial donation (for tax reasons) to lower public acquisition costs and reduce tax burden for owners. Identify available city funds and enlist a partner to acquire easement or other joint ownership and share the cost. This approach attempts to bring public expenditures down to a level that would be acceptable to the general public.

Cost: $3-4 million.

Action: Identify city funding that would be available from existing sources. Commit those funds to acquisition and negotiate with owners and partners to reach agreement.

Funding Sources: Parks bond funds, stormwater funds, parks SDCs, capital funds, private donations.

4. Creative Land Exchange

The City has a number of properties that could be developed. With an intermediary, arrange an exchange so Amazon owners become owners of such properties while the City acquires the Amazon properties.

Cost: Less than a million, in legal and other associated costs.


5. Selective Acquisition/Partial Development

This is a reduced/fallback version of the prior strategy. Select certain parts of the properties that are likely to be developable (beyond the 50% that regulations would likely protect) but that have high environmental or recreational value and negotiate for their acquisition, leaving other parts of the properties open to possible development. Habitat-oriented conservation easements, with restrictions on development and land management are also possible.

Cost: $1-2 million.

Action: Identify specific areas/rights to be acquired and negotiate with owners on price/donations. Identify existing funds to support tis effort.

Funding Sources: Parks bond funds, stormwater funds, parks SDCs, capital funds, private donations.

6. Rely on Land Use Code Restrictions

Past denied development proposals and any that might eventually be approved indicate that more than 50% of the properties would remain undeveloped to meet existing land use restrictions. These undeveloped areas would include generous setbacks along waterways and protection/restoration of some native vegetation.

Cost: Thousands for reports, hearings, and appeals.

Actions: No further public action. Continued private efforts to document location of unstable soils, wetlands, sensitive plant species, etc. that increase the scope of protected areas and minimize or mitigate impacts of any development on the stormwater system and create a connected wildlife and native plant corridor.

Funding Sources: Private citizens and foundation grants.

Creative Ideas sources and process proposal from Mike

Funding Sources and Acquisition Strategies The most successful public acquisition strategy would create a win for all parties involved. These parties include the seller, the city as an organization, the general public interest and any potential additional party. Although the simplest strategy would be a direct city purchase, an acquisition of this nature may require consideration of multiple funding sources and strategies.

An attached spreadsheet presents a range of possible funding sources for these acquisitions. There are several other funding sources and strategies available through creative use of current city assets. There are several additional strategies that require further research, information gathering and analysis more extensive than was practical within the bounds of the committee’s charge. Below is a list of some these, not in preference order.

1. Private Fund Raising Activities

a. The city could encourage or help organize the formation a 501(c)(3) or other non-profit group (trust/foundation) whose sole reason for existence is to raise money to be donated to the city for purchase of these properties. There seems to be a large constituency of supporters for city acquisition of these properties. Organizing and mobilizing these people to a well-coordinated effort could produce substantial financial results.

b. Another strategy could involve the city acquisition of these properties for only a specified period of time to allow for private fund raising to pay back the city.

2. City Asset Sale

a. There are several city assets and city owned land parcels not currently being utilized for their highest and best use. A sale of even a small portion of under utilized city real assets may provide substantial portions of needed funding. Further research is required to identify those with the least encumbrances.

b. There are several city assets who have current proscribed uses or planned uses that may be of lower city priority than the acquisition of these properties. Further research and a Council priority discussion would likely be necessary in this case.

3. City Asset Leverage

a. This strategy involves the use of a current city asset as collateral for borrowed money to be expended during purchase whose continued use can generate a revenue stream for repayment of the borrowed money. An example would be money borrowed against a city owned building that would generate money over time from leasing out that space.

4. Property Exchange

a. The city owns a number of developed and undeveloped parcels that may be of negotiated value to the Beverly’s or to Mr. Green as a direct or supplemented exchange. An example of this is the recent acquisition of the Bradford’s property downtown, exchanged for another piece of city property and a relatively small amount of money.

b. The city may be able to acquire a property that may have similar value to the Beverly’s or to Mr. Green, but be able to acquire it for substantially less money than the Amazon properties. An example would be another property better suited for development of homes that would have similar acreage to those portions of their current property that can be developed, but have fewer potential approval challenges.

c. A third party exchange could involve a property that either the Beverly’s or Mr. Green may want that could be brought into city ownership by means of exchange of a current city asset for the third party’s property.

d. Another third party exchange could involve the other party acquiring the Green and Beverly properties on their own terms for the third party to exchange for a current city asset. This strategy could have multiple secondary benefits. An example of this would be a third party who having acquired the Green and Beverly properties, exchanged them for city property downtown that resulted in the revitalization after development of the city owned downtown property.

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