Oregonian article

Deal puts Mt. Tabor land sale in the past
Upset neighbors – The controversial plan appears to be over, and everyone is “thrilled”
by Edward Hershey, May 18, 2007, The Oregonian

Neighborhood residents and the Portland Parks Bureau have reached an agreement on how the city should proceed with determining the future of the maintenance yard and nursery at the southern edge of Mount Tabor Park.

The two-page agreement, signed Monday night and unanimously ratified Wednesday by the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association board, comes after four mediation sessions in the past month. It does not mention a proposal to sell or lease as much as 9 acres to Warner Pacific College for athletic fields but appears to derail the plan.

A spokesman for Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the Parks Bureau, acknowledged yesterday that the controversial proposal is “off the table.”

One negotiator for the residents, Don Jacobson, said Monday that Parks Bureau Director Zari Santner and her staff came to Monday’s session “with a radically different perspective than they had in the first several meetings,” leading to a breakthrough, but added: “The devil is in the details. There are potential pitfalls ahead. The game is not over.”

“I think everybody came to a conclusion that it was time to start talking about how we wanted to move forward,” said Gay Greger, the bureau’s community relations manager. “That’s when the positive energy appeared.”

Under the agreement, mediators Jamie Damon and Mary Forst will facilitate a process for updating the parks master plan by June 2008; the community will participate in a city feasibility study “using the assumption that the function of the Mt. Tabor Park Central Yard and Nursery is not relocating”; and the Parks Bureau will seek funding from the City Council for an “open, transparent, community-wide and inclusive” planning process.

The agreement also commits the Parks Bureau to a more stringent “pre-disposition process and guidelines” before recommending whether parkland should be sold as surplus.

In February, residents accused Santner and her staff of collaborating with former City Commissioner Jim Francesconi to fast track a transfer of as many as 9 acres of park property to Warner Pacific and misleading them about the arrangement to avoid a public review. They cited a memorandum of understanding signed by Santner and Warner Pacific President Jay A. Barber Jr.

Santner denied any intent to mislead the public or operate under the radar, calling the memorandum merely a draft designed to outline the proposal and spark discussion.

“Parks is really thrilled with this, and the neighborhood is thrilled with this,” Matthew Grumm, Saltzman’s constituent relations and policy manager, said of this week’s deal. “There are smiles all over the place.”

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