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Battle over blight: City takes on Main Street mess

The city hopes to buy this uninhabitable house at 1086 S.E. Main Ct., which was acquired by the county via tax foreclosure. (Cindy Yingst)
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, November 8, 2018

Taking the horror by the horns, city leaders voted Wednesday afternoon to bid on one of the town’s biggest eyesores.

The uninhabitable house at 1086 S.E. Main Court – visible from the city’s main drag -- could become a jewel in the city’s redevelopment crown.

“This is a classic example of why you have an urban renewal district,” Mayor Henry Balensifer said. He and two other commissioners, acting as the city’s Urban Renewal Agency, voted unanimously to make a low-ball offer on the property, which is owned by Clatsop County.

The county became owner by default a year ago when the prior owner abandoned it and made no property tax payments for six years.

Properties that sit within the city’s urban renewal boundary, such as the one on Main Court, are eligible for incentives and monetary help on property improvements. In this case, the city wants to take over ownership and immediately remove the nuisance structure and clean up the property.

The city will send a letter to the county seeking to pay the $5,520 in back taxes and liens.

The county had offered the property in a foreclosure sale in the spring, but there were no takers at the requested $50,000 minimum bid.

Oregon laws provide some interesting twists on nuisance property sales.

“We don’t have to, by law, clean up any properties we get through tax foreclosure,” said Sirpa Duoos, county property manager.

When a county sells a property in a public sale, it may not take less than half the property’s value. If the property doesn’t sell, the county can give it away once liens and taxes are paid.

“We’re not trying to cut anybody out,” City Manager Linda Engbretson said. “The goal is to clean it up and remove the blight and turn the property around.”

“The neighbors have been complaining about it,” Balensifer said.

Were it owned by a private individual, the city would be after them to clean it up.

“This is blight No. 1 in the city, right next to the blue house that went down on Harbor,” Balensifer said.

“The Warrenton Urban Renewal Agency is actively revitalizing the downtown corridor and this property falls within the URA boundary,” the written offer letter states. “The property is seriously blighted, is an active nuisance case, and is a highly visible property.”

Once Duoos has received the city’s written request, the property sale would go before the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners for consideration.

The north side of the house has holes. (Cindy Yingst)

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