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Councilors weigh deed restriction on plaza.

Byline: Christian Hill The Register-Guard

Eugene city councilors offered varying opinions Monday on how much a Broadway Plaza deed restriction will weigh on their discussions and decision about what to do with the public square.

The Register-Guard reported Saturday that the deed conveying the parcel to the city from the city's urban renewal agency noted it "is forever dedicated to the use of the public."

The City Council will have its first public discussion about the plaza's future during a work session Monday.

A local development group, 2EB LLC, has approached city officials with a proposal to buy and develop the plaza, commonly known as Kesey Square, with a mixed-use building. City officials also have solicited other ideas for use of the space.

A city spokeswoman said last week that there remains an avenue to remove the restriction if the City Council decides to sell the property. Jan Bohman wrote in an email after consulting with the city attorney that the City Council, which also serves as the urban renewal agency's board of directors, could remove the 1971 deed's use restriction if it decides to sell the property.

But Mayor Kitty Piercy, who would only vote in the event of a tie, said Monday that the deed restriction "gives some credence to the outpouring of folks who believe it should remain public space."

"It certainly adds a new twist to the discussion," she said. "It would have been helpful to have had that information earlier, and I am glad we have it before any council deliberation occurs."

Councilor Claire Syrett agreed the restriction "is relevant to the conversation" and isn't something that can be dismissed as a technicality.

"It needs to be part of the consideration of how we address the property," she said.

Councilor Chris Pryor, however, said the restriction isn't an insurmountable obstacle, noting there are ways to remove it if the council decides to move ahead.

"It's there. It's a restriction, but it's not something that's irrevocable," he said. "It's a complicating factor, but it's not a fatal blow."

Councilors George Brown and Betty Taylor, who have been vocal opponents to the 2EB proposal, disagreed, saying the restriction should stop council consideration of a sale once and for all.

Taylor said it'd be "really outrageous" for the discussion to continue with that language in place.

"We have evidence that's the way it was intended, instead of it being an accidental leftover," she said, referring to the parcel's 30-year history as part of the former downtown mall's central plaza.

Brown said although he's not a lawyer, the language "is pretty clear that the land can't be sold.

"It has to be kept, it can't be privatized," he said.

Having officials finesse their way around the deed language would be a "sure way to fan people's mistrust of city government," Brown said.

Councilor Mike Clark said he's waiting to learn more about the deed restriction from City Manager Jon Ruiz and City Attorney Glenn Klein.

"I really don't know what it means yet," he said.

The remaining three city councilors didn't return phone messages seeking comment Monday.

Follow Christian on Twitter @RGchill. Email christian.hill@registerguard.com.

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Title Annotation:Eugene Government
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 16, 2016
Words:528
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