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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow COUPLE PURCHASES HOT LAKE PROPERTY

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COUPLE PURCHASES HOT LAKE PROPERTY

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Ideas to develop the historic Hot Lake property come to the Union County planning office almost as often as Christmas, but the latest plan includes a land purchase.

David W. and Laura Lawton of Seattle have bought about 160 acres of the 372-acre Hot Lake property for $125,000, according to county records. The new owners, however, did not buy the old hotel-hospital or the wetlands. The old hotel building is owned by Louise Rogers Ray who lives in California.

The Lawtons have purchased the barn and a portion of the hillside, including two small houses, but that portion of the property does not have access to either Hot Lake Road or Highway 203, said county planner Hanley Jenkins.

"He's made an offer for the building," Jenkins said.

Telephone calls made by The Observer to the Lawtons were not returned, and the buyers' development plans are not known.

Purchase of the property comes complete with a number of legal land-use complications that could inhibit development, but Jenkins said that if the Lawtons own both the land where the hotel sits and the acreage they have purchased, the legal land-use issues can be addressed without many problems.

Legal complications affected an earlier plan to develop the Hot Lake property. Steven Sharp of Cove ended his attempt to buy part of the acreage last May because the property had not been divided into legal parcels by the owners.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has expressed interest in buying the wetlands portion of the Hot Lake property to add to Ladd Marsh.

In the past few years, the Hot Lake buildings, including the hotel, have fallen into serious disrepair. In 1998, a Washington developer presented a proposal to the county's planning commission, requesting permission to subdivide the property into residential lots. The planning commission approved the request, with conditions, but no development ever took place.

Grande Ronde Valley dwellers have been visiting the geothermal springs at Hot Lake since before Europeans settled in the Blue Mountains. The first hotel, a frame building, was built in 1864, and the brick building now standing on the property was constructed as a hotel in 1906. For a time, after the brick hotel was finished, several buildings stood on the property, but most of the structures were later destroyed by fire.

The hotel became a combination hospital-hotel or spa in 1917, when people used the mineral hot springs to treat various ailments. It became a home for elderly people in 1951 and closed in 1974.

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