CITY WANTS TO OBTAIN PROPERTY, FACES APPRAISAL DIFFICULTIES

March 01, 2001 11:00 pm
APPRAISAL SOUGHT: The City of La Grande is looking for an appraiser with the expertise to appraise the 9,680-square foot lot left as a hole in the ground and a pile of debris when the two-story building burned April 4, 1994. (The Observer/Erin Witten).
APPRAISAL SOUGHT: The City of La Grande is looking for an appraiser with the expertise to appraise the 9,680-square foot lot left as a hole in the ground and a pile of debris when the two-story building burned April 4, 1994. (The Observer/Erin Witten).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The City of La Grande, which is proceeding in its efforts to purchase the burned-out Bohnenkamp site on Adams Avenue, is facing a question of how to get a fair appraisal of the site.

The city is required by state law to get an appraisal before it can buy the lot under the condemnation procedure the city is using.

The city is interested in redeveloping the site, and months ago the city manager was authorized to begin condemnation proceedings. The first stage is to attempt to negotiate for the property.

The city council last week authorized City Manager Wes Hare to proceed with hiring a certified appraiser to determine what the city should pay for the land.

Hare said it might be difficult to find an appraiser in this immediate area with the expertise to appraise the 9,680-square foot lot left as a hole in the ground and a pile of debris when the two-story building was destroyed by fire in the early-morning hours of April 4, 1994.

Attorney Jonel Ricker told the council, Youre dealing with the unique characteristics of the property. You need an appraiser with expertise in dealing with such issues as cleanup (and) lateral support for adjoining buildings.

Mayor Colleen Johnson said during the last council meeting, The city has offered what the county assessed the property at $37,510.

Hare said, There have been offers and counter offers and were not making much progress. The gap is widening.

The latest offer discussed in public session is $50,000. There have been further negotiations since then. The owners once were asking $104,000 for the site.

The location, which housed Bohnenkamps Interiors, a high-end furniture and furnishings store, was assessed by Union County in 1996 at $92,960. In 1999, the owners succeeded in lowering its assessed value to $1,000. Now the assessed value is $37,510, which is not necessarily the market value.

The owners appealed to the Union County Board of Property Tax Appeals last week to have the assessment lowered again, but the board upheld the countys assessment.

The city estimates the cost of cleaning up the debris at $10,686, with the possible addition of $20,000 more if any of the asbestos tiles in the rubble break. The citys estimate to fill in the basement area is $140,000.

The city, through its urban renewal agency, wants to acquire the site, clean it up and prepare it for redevelopment, with a possible resale to investors or to maintain as an Urban Renewal Agency property. A plan being studied includes ground-floor offices and apartments above.