Buying a Path to History

Priceless gas
The Priceless Gas station across from Umatilla City Hall has closed, and the city council has agreed to a “right of first refusal” option on purchasing the property. The potential purchase would be part of the city's effort to develop the Old Town site.

[quote style=”2″]Umatilla Taking Steps to Develop Old Town Site[/quote]

It’s no secret the city of Umatilla is working with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) to develop the Umatilla Old Town site as an interpretive park celebrating the history of both entities.

On Tuesday night, the city took two steps toward creating a park “corridor” from Umatilla City Hall to the Old Town site.

One action involved the former Priceless Gas Station across from Umatilla City Hall. The business has closed, gas tanks have been removed and the soil has been remediated. The owners of the property, 711 Sixth St., have indicated an intent to sell. Because the city would require time to seek grants to fund the purchase, it is proposing a “right of first refusal” agreement.

That agreement, approved unanimously by the council, would mean if someone offered a bid on the property before the city is ready to purchase it, the owners would approach the city and give them the option to purchase it for that price instead.

In exchange for the agreement, the city will pay the property taxes – about $1,300 last year – and keep the grass mode in compliance with the city’s nuisance ordinance. Umatilla City Manager Bob Ward said the two-parcel property was appraised at about $75,000 and would have a new appraisal before purchasing.

Umatilla Old Town
Umatilla City Hall is just visible from the Old Town Umatilla site, which opens for tours once a year during Landing Days. The city is working to purchase property in between the two locations to build a corridor for recreational development.
During the meeting, the council also approved a letter from the city to the Umatilla County Commissioners proposing a land swap in exchange for road management to secure another lot in the corridor.

If the commissioners accept the deal, the city could take over care and management of Beach Access Road, Bud Draper Road and Roxbury Road, which are all county roads, in exchange for the parcel of land south of Fifth Street between G and H streets.

“It is just a part of an overall plan to open this gateway to the Old Town Site,” Public Works Director Russ Pelleberg said Tuesday. “It’s a good deal.”

The two properties are part of a long-term proposal to have a park/trail traveling from city hall into the old town site.

The site, owned by the Corps of Engineers, is adjacent to the Columbia River and has historical significance both as a village for the Umatilla people – dating as far as 4,000 B.C. – and as the original location of downtown Umatilla. The city was moved when engineers predicted construction of the John Day dam would flood the site, and the property has been owned by the Corps of Engineers ever since.

The city has approved a tentative site plan for development of walking trails along former streets and interpretive history panels for the site, and the plan is working through CTUIR entities for approval or suggestions.

In other business, the council:

• Adopted Ordinance 790, a modification of the Eastern Oregon Telecom franchise agreement. The modification extends the franchise to cover internet protocol television.
• Adopted Ordinance 791, authorizing a tourism promotion assessment for the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center. The assessment will charge an amount from overnight hotel stays to fund EOTEC marketing.
• Extended the contract with CRIS Inc., for management of the Umatilla Marina and RV Park for one year.
• Approved a liquor license application for Donitas Tacos.

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