Lewis County has approached the City of Winlock to potentially purchase city-owned property along Hwy 603 to assist in the completion of an expansion project expected to begin next year.
Discussed during the July 28 Winlock City Council meeting, officials were informed Lewis County plans to improve a 1.7-mile section of Hwy. 603, starting at the northern city limits, and is interested in purchasing an undeveloped section of Winolequa Park located between the highway and the railroad tracks, away from current park facilities.
"We've reached a point where the engineering is complete," said Bill Van der Hoeff, county property management agent, to the council. "We are in the property-acquisition process of the project."
Van der Hoeff provided officials with a copy of the county's official offer to buy a 2.52-acre portion of the property, as well as engineering documents and an appraisal from the Assessor's Office.
"Primarily, that property is needed to straighten out the road in that area," continued Van der Hoeff. "Secondarily, there's a water retention feature that would go into that area."
County Public Works Director Tim Elsea further explained the project would entail expanding the shoulder by three feet on either side along the 1.7-mile section, while many curves will be entirely rebuilt to allow for safer travel at higher speeds. He added a storm water retention pond will be constructed to comply with requirements for such retention ponds when permeable land area is reduced, such as during the expansion of a roadway.
While council members initially voted for Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell to accept the county's proposal, once finer details were hammered out and approved by City Attorney Erin Hillier, Dowell said he expects to bring the matter back to the council after surveying the land in question with Van der Hoeff on Thursday and determining it may be best to offer the county a larger 6.07-acre portion, which would include all of the park land west of the railroad tracks.
"It doesn't look like anything would be left that would be feasible to build a structure on," said Dowell, noting the quality of the land remaining in that area if the city were to grant the county their initial request of 2.52 acres. "That's why we're going to check into [the county] purchasing the entire property."
Dowell said his counter offer of a 6.07-acre purchase was sent back with county officials, who said they would have the Assessor's Office review the details and get back to him by sometime this week.
As to the potential payment Winlock could receive for the property sale, Dowell said it would not be appropriate to discuss those figures until after an offer is officially approved. Hillier did state the entire 36-acre park was most recently assessed at around $250,000 according to county tax records, excluding improvements. Based on those figures, a sum of $17,500 could be offered for the 2.52-acre parcel, while $42,000 could be offered for the 6.07-acre parcel, according to this reporter's math.
A number of property owners along the length of the proposed project are also expected to be approached with offers from the county for portions of their land related to rights of way and the expansion of the road itself, with the county being obligated to offer fair market rates for the property in question.