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Astoria city staff have been drilling down on a city council directive to consider the sale of several city-own properties that are currently maintained by Parks and Recreation staff.

Even though the city owns that land, selling those parcels isn’t an easy chore.

The first job was to identify potential candidates for sale and that was accomplished through the adoption of the Astoria Parks and Recreation Master Plan.  From there the city council identified specific sites for staff to research. Those sites include Birch Ballfield, U.S. Customs House Reconstruction, Tidal Rock/Chairwall, First U.S. Post Office, and the Yacht Club.

Sale of city-owned property is governed by City Code, State Code, and City Administrative Practices.

Three of the sites are designated city parks. To sell those (Birch Ballfield, Custom House, First Post Office) the code would have to be amended to remove that designation from those properties.

Three of the sites are designated “historic”. That designation cannot be dropped for Custom House, First U.S. Post Office, and Tidal Rock/Chairwall because the city did not object to the designation since the city was the applicant.

Since the reconstructed Custom House is not situated on the site of the original customs house it may be moved but if that happens the new site selected has to serve the public equally well.

Of the identified properties, city staff has determined that Birch Ballfield would be the most feasible candidate but that comes with some strings attached. City Engineer Nathan Crater points out that the site would be an excellent place to build additional stormwater treatment capacity in the next 25 to 50 years since it’s close to four sewer outfalls. The land might also be considered a wetland after further investigation because at times it is wet and marshy.  If the property does clear those hurdles then it could hold up to eight single-family homes, or with conditional use approval, up to 16 multifamily units.

The site of the First U.S Post Office would have to remain in city hands regardless of a change in its designation as a city park. The city has entered into an agreement with adjacent property owners for the care of the site and staff is recommending against proceeding further.

The possible sale of the other properties would require more research due to the historic nature of those and the various state and federal agencies that may be involved in the process.

A special meeting of the Astoria City Council has been set for 9:00 am Wednesday, February 14 to make a decision about continuing the process toward a sale of the properties.

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