Bidding Set to Close for 82 Acres Near Sandy

Bidding Set to Close for 82 Acres Near Sandy

By Brad Schmidt
August 22, 2007


Bidding will close today on the sale of 82 acres of forestland along U.S. 26 in Brightwood, a transaction that could lead to the construction of 260 houses — the largest new single-family residential development near Mount Hood in four decades.

Talk of the development has longtime mountain residents questioning the expected deal and expressing concern about possible traffic dangers along a deadly stretch of highway known as “Blood Alley.”

The development “would just change life as we know it drastically,” Zigzag resident Judith Norval said. “I think it was a surprise to everybody that it was actually going to be housing. We were under the impression that a lot of it would be conserved.”

The land — a 72-acre parcel and a nearby 10-acre plot zoned for residential use — borders the north side of U.S. 26 in Brightwood, roughly halfway between Sandy and Government Camp. Clackamas County Commissioner Bill Kennemer said the county agreed to sell the land to Western Rivers Conservancy in April with the expectation it would be re-sold for development.

Western Rivers Conservancy bought 443 acres — including the 82 acres to be sold — for $9.5 million from the county, the majority of which it plans to sell to the Bureau of Land Management. Sue Doroff, Western Rivers vice president, said it is rare for the conservancy to sell land for development, but she noted the hundreds of acres it has preserved along the Sandy River.

“A small amount of that (purchase) doesn’t have high conservation value but it does have high dollar value,” she said. “Conservation dollars are very precious; we simply can’t conserve everything.”

The Portland-based nonprofit purchased the 82 acres in question for about $3.4 million and hopes to sell for $4.2 million.

Today marks the deadline for interested buyers to submit sealed bids. The purchaser may not be named until next week, and a deal is expected to close by Sept. 30.

Once in the hands of a developer, approximately 260 houses could be built on the land — which is zoned for four houses per acre, not counting space needed for roads and other infrastructure.

Possible housing could target commuters working in the metro area, active retirees, or those looking to enjoy Mount Hood living, said John Rosenthal, president of Realty Marketing/Northwest, the seller’s agency.

“You just won’t find any large tracts like that available at the base of Mount Hood,” he said.

Large-scale residential construction along U.S. 26 has been rare. About 400 homes have been built in the largest project, Timberline Rim, since 1968.

In Sandy, the largest new single-family development this year, Deer Pointe, has 111 lots with homes selling in the mid-$200,000 range. And at Government Camp, 48 high-end condominiums are being built as part of the Collins Lake Resort, with sale prices set at $649,000.

“The pricing they achieved caught a lot of people’s attention,” said Jerry Johnson of Johnson Gardner, a real estate consulting firm. Johnson said the success of development in Brightwood — a “tweener” area between the city and the mountain — will be watched closely.

Residents will be watching just as closely.

“By having that many homes put in, we’re also talking about how it’s going to affect our community,” said Nancy Dougherty, a mountain resident since 1965. “And that would be schools, that would be sewage, that would be water, that would be highway transportation.”

Judy Baumgarte built a home at Timberline Rim in 1973. Like many, she says she doesn’t want to see her picturesque area change.

“It’s like any other mountain person — once you live here you don’t want anyone else coming,” she said. “It’s a very lovely wooded area. I can’t imagine to develop it to that extent.”