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September 6, 2013
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Roseburg eye doctor bids for Willis House and park

An eye physician has made an offer on the historic Willis House and abutting park, and the Roseburg City Council will consider the transaction at Monday’s meeting.

Dr. Jon-Marc Weston and his wife, Susan, have submitted a $215,000 offer on the city-owned house and park in the 700 block of Southeast Rose Street.

City Manager Lance Colley said Thursday this will be the fourth bid made on the property since it went on the market more than a year ago.

It will be the first presented to councilors because staff members did not believe previous offers were worthy of consideration.

“If they determine the offer is acceptable, we will sell the property,” Colley said. “If not, we will either reject the offer or make the counteroffer that would be acceptable to council.”

Weston, owner of Weston Eye Center on Northwest Kline Street in Roseburg, said he plans to open a bed and breakfast or a duplex at the Willis House.

“We have been looking for properties downtown to do something to contribute to the downtown revitalization,” Weston said Thursday.

“A more vibrant downtown is good for everybody.”

The house has been vacant since July 2012, when the CCD Business Development Corporation moved to the Umpqua Business Center. The City Council approved putting the house on the market for $180,000 after it decided the building would be better taken care of by a private owner, while adding to the tax rolls.

The price tag increased after the park was added to the deal in July in hopes of enticing potential buyers.

Although there wasn’t a formal offer made, Occupy Roseburg’s pitch to establish a homeless campsite on the Willis property has been discussed at previous council meetings. Many councilors have spoken against the proposal.

Weston made a bid before anyone proposed turning the park into a homeless camp.

“This idea came up after we put the offer in,” Weston said. “If it doesn’t happen with the Willis House, we are going to still keep looking. We will let City Council decide what is best.”

Occupy Roseburg member Jeri Benedetto said the group has realized the property is inappropriate for a camp, but she doesn’t want to see the park fall into private ownership.

“There is so little public space in downtown Roseburg for folks to have a place to congregate, to talk, to relax and enjoy, and I would really hate to see that park with the gazebo become private property,” Benedetto said. “It’s not right, not appropriate for what we envision for a camp, and so I wouldn’t oppose whatever the City Council decides to do, but I would hate to see that park become inaccessible to the public because it is used a lot.”

If Weston’s offer is accepted, $53,750 will be dedicated for park land acquisition.

If a competing offer is presented prior to or during Monday’s public hearing, the City Council can either accept Weston’s offer or direct the city’s real estate agent to negotiate with the new potential buyer.

The house was built in 1874 by Judge William R. Willis, who also served on the Roseburg City Council and as mayor. The city acquired the house in 1924 and used it for a public library and later as City Hall.

•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at cgeorge@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Sep 6, 2013 12:13PM Published Sep 9, 2013 09:15AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.