By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

Curry County Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of moving forward with the Lake Floras land swap recently.

At their May 22 meeting, Chair Christopher Paasch voted “no” on the measure saying he wanted to take more time and negotiate a better deal with the state.

The swap with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) — discussed earlier at the board’s May 8 meeting — would net the county 30 acres of forested land off of U.S. 101 near Pacific High School in Port Orford – the Port Orford Cedar Forest Property – in exchange for a 90-acre peninsula jutting into Floras Lake.

The county gained the peninsula and roughly 400 acres near the lake when a developer foreclosed on the land and owed the county taxes, according to County Counsel John Huttl.

OPRD would develop a trail system in the area, according to reports on the deal, adding a bonus for the county because those areas are easily accessible from the county’s Boice Cope Park.

At the May 8 meeting, county staff were instructed to draft a formal proposal to accept the land swap with the OPRD; however, that formal agreement was not available for a vote at the May 22 meeting. Staff said more information was needed, and they required input from OPRD.

Curry County Assessor Jim Kolen spoke at the meeting saying the state was taking the ice-cream and leaving the county nothing but the cone. He added there were no viable uses for the land the county was acquiring even though it was giving up lakefront property.

County Director of Operations Julie Schmelzer agreed with Kolen and said if the county was giving up the lakefront, it might as well give the state all the Floras Lake property.

The property the county will gain in the swap is zoned for recreation, according to Schmelzer, but it is also wetlands and of little value.

She suggested the county negotiate and attempt to get the McVay Rock recreation area from OPRD, an area she said could host an RV park and campground, thus giving the county land with value and the potential to earn revenue.

OPRD Region Manager Dennis Comfort noted OPRD was not interested in the remaining land at Floras Lake but would be interested in negotiating the transfer of McVay Rock to the county in the future, probably by including a deal to do so in its strategic plan and putting such a transfer off for about two years. He also discussed the possibility of a low-cost lease with the county for McVay Rock.

“All I want is for the properties we trade or lease to be used for recreation in perpetuity,” he said, “and for them to be maintained.”

Commissioner Sue Gold twice questioned the likelihood of such a lease occuring and expressed interest in such a deal for the future before she agreed to the current swap.

Commissioner Court Boice said he trusted the state here, wanted to make a “lot of people happy” and wanted to change the county’s reputation for “not getting things done.”

Paasch said he still felt rushed and wanted to see if the county could get the Port Orford property and McVay Rock.

He said, “business is business,” and added he wanted to find a way to get a better deal for the whole county and increase revenues as well.

The board voted to communicate to OPRD the county was ready to move forward with the land swap as defined and instructed staff to work with OPRD to draft a formal deal.

Other BOC news

The board voted to establish a Wolf Advisory Committee to advise the commissioners on wolf depredation and to set reimbursement rates for livestock killed by wolves.

Boice seeks reimbursement

Commissioner Sue Gold voted “no,” with Paasch and Boice abstaining, on a measure to reimburse Boice for court costs and legal fees stemming from a suit filed against him by the county in a dispute over travel costs last year. The vote resulted in a “did not pass.”

Boice — who called the suit ill-advised litigation — asked for a reimbursement of $3,288, noting the judge had ruled in his favor. He asked the commissioners to vote for the integrity of the board and to do the right thing.

Gold and Paasch both said the judge had not awarded damages or costs in the case and questioned why the issue had come up so long after the court had made its decision.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com

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