The Philomath City Council gave its stamp of approval Monday night to purchase a half-acre property on the corner of Main Street and North 20th Street.
Councilors did not discuss any potential uses for the site but City Manager Chris Workman believes there could be some very good options.
“I’m not a big advocate of the city being landlords that just sit on top of a property and wait for them to increase in value so I think we need to take a serious look at the property and make some determinations on what to do,” Workman told councilors. “I think there are some good waymarkers within the strategic plan of things that the council is interested in doing.”
Workman suggested that the council schedule a work session in conjunction with its April 10 meeting to discuss ideas.
The city will dip into its reserve funds to pay the agreed-upon price of $337,500 plus a $56.50 recording fee. A budget amendment will be needed to transfer those dollars into the Land, Building and Equipment fund and from there, the money will be released for the purpose of land acquisition.
“This wasn’t a property we were looking for but there are enough good potential uses of this that the council gave direction to pursue it even without an exact idea of what to do knowing that there are several good possibilities,” Workman said. “It’s got good potential, it’s a great location and it’s got the added bonus that now the City Council has a little bit of control over what goes in there and also what doesn’t go in there.”
Workman said that while the city works on rezoning and allowed uses, the property represented an opportunity to have some control about what goes on the lot, which is located at 1917 Main St., and encompasses 0.51 of an acre.
The former late owner had a rental property on the lot for years and eventually tore the house down when it became too much of a maintenance headache, Workman said.
“Residents remember the house as the one on Main Street that had a basketball court out there because kids were always playing basketball or on the swingset or whatnot,” he said, “so it became kind of infamous for having kids right there playing.”
The property initially got onto the city’s radar as a possible Main Street location for a commercial investor or small business. Following the owner’s death, the property fell into the possession of family members who live in California. Eventually, Workman contacted the son of the late owner to see if it might be up for sale.
“I wondered if he was interested in selling for commercial development,” Workman said. “I get hit up all the time from businesses looking for a place asking if there are any lots for sale coming up. I try to keep just an informal inventory of what’s coming on the market.”
The family reacted that they would be open to talking to businesses that might be interested.
“For the last two or three years or so, I’ve sent several businesses that had asked about properties his way and nothing ever came out of it,” Workman said. “Then he reached out to me maybe six months ago and said, ‘hey, we’re in a position to go ahead and sell this property — does the city have an interest in it?’”
Workman brought the possibility to the City Council and conversations took place in executive sessions.
“After some discussions, they gave me direction to go ahead and pursue purchasing the property and seeing what we could do with it,” Workman said.
Councilor Matt Lehman made a motion to approve the purchase and Councilor Jessica Andrade seconded. It was approved on a 6-0 vote (Mayor Chas Jones absent).