The City of La Grande approved giving a piece of surplus land to Island City at Wednesday’s city council meeting. The land, located at 10209 White Birch Lane, which leads to one of La Grande’s water wells, had been a point of contention over the past few months, but the decision was eventually made to give the land to Island City to be used as a public right-of-way. 

The piece of land was established as “surplus land” by the City of La Grande in March. Surplus land is when a lot’s extra land cannot be sold off separately. It is simply extra land that still might have some value but can’t be used for a separate purpose from the rest of the lot. The land was offered to bidders, but when the bidding closed, the city found an issue with the wording of the city’s offer and chose to rescind all the bids. 

According to City Manager Robert Stope, the council’s intent to have the land developed as a public right-of-way to access the well wasn’t properly phrased in the document opening up the bidding, so all the bids had to be rejected. If the city were to reopen the bids, it would be with that requirement as a stipulation. In either case of private or public ownership, there would need to be a road built for public access. As part of the deal, Island City must use the land for public purposes. 

Many residents of Island City were concerned that the land would be developed into additional housing that could bring down the value of their own homes. This was the reason one homeowner, Shawn Tritchka, had put in the winning bid. She said it was frustrating to have won the auction only to be told that she won’t be getting the land. 

Tritchka stated that she was more than willing to abide by the city’s

requirements. 

“It looks bad. She won then we said we messed up and she lost out,” La Grande City Councilor Nicole Howard said during the council’s September meeting. 

At that time, the topic was tabled until the council’s October meeting due to confusion over the location of the piece of land. The decision on Oct. 2 to transfer the land to Island City came to a 4-3 vote. The road will now be the responsibility of Island City to manage and develop. 

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