Business Would be Forced Out by Proposed Public Works Plan

The City of Tigard is looking to acquire an eight-acre property off S.W. 72nd Avenue currently occupied by United Rentals and build a new public works facility there. The owner of the property, however, says they were given little time to process the City’s plans and are looking to fight the decision, saying it would cost Tigard a long-time employer and dozens of jobs. (GOOGLE MAPS SCREENSHOT)

The owners of property identified by the City of Tigard for a new public works facility say that if the City acquires their site it would put a long-time equipment rental company out of business.

I.S. Properties Limited Partnership, which owns the eight-acre site in question off S.W. 72nd Avenue, say they were not made aware of the City’s interest in the property until less than two weeks before the City Council was to consider giving the go-ahead for the acquisition, by condemnation if necessary. 

“This came as a complete surprise to us,” Brian Spencer, Principal at I.S. Properties LP told the Council at its March 16 meeting. “If the City uses its power of eminent domain to take this process forward it will make this business homeless essentially overnight. I am not aware of any facility in the metro area this tenant could relocate to.”

The property at 14020 S.W. 72nd Ave. is adjacent to Interstate 5 and has been home to United Rentals since 1992. It was identified as the best of five potential sites for the City’s planned new public works facility in a study done by consultants from Portland firm Scott | Edwards Architecture. 

The new facility is part of a plan that calls for the replacement of the current public works building at Southwest Burnham Street and Hall Boulevard with a new 100,000 square foot city hall and police station. The City is moving quickly to acquire a site for a new public works facility because of rising construction costs and the need to vacate the existing site.

The Scott | Edwards Architecture report also identified four other potential public works sites on S.W. 74th Ave., S.W. Hall Blvd, S.W. North Dakota St. and S.W. Hunziker Road. The United Rentals site was singled out as the best choice because of its lack of environmental issues, flat topography and ease of future development. 

A letter sent to the City Council by Attorneys Bruce Cahn and Charles Hudson of Lane Powell PC, a Seattle-based law firm, however, stressed that not only would the City be losing an important employer it would also be required to pay “just compensation” for a site with features, including proximity to Interstate 5, that aren’t actually needed for a public works facility. 

If the City condemns the S.W. 72nd property, the letter states, it will need to pay for a valuable commercial property, as well as relocation benefits, compensation for rolling stock, supporting facilities, equipment and legal fees. The letter states the property value alone could be over $16 million. The Scott | Edwards Architecture report, meanwhile, estimates the construction costs for a new public works facility at $28 million or more.

“On even a cursory review,” the attorneys’ letter states, “it appears that the City’s site analysis has completely omitted any consideration of factors that should be important to the City in arriving at decisions that support its own local businesses and employers and make the best possible use of taxpayer funds.”

In response, the Council resolution approving the acquisition of the United Rentals site was removed from the March 16 meeting agenda. 

“It was not a great deal of time leading up to the process, but we did touch base with them,” City Manager Steve Rymer said. 

Rymer added that it is in everyone’s best interest to examine the situation further. The City, he said, wants to be sensitive to the property owner’s needs.

“There are many variables in the process like this,” he said. “When you’re looking for minimum of eight acres, there are not a lot of options, as you might suspect. We’re doing our due diligence for this decision for the Council.”