Roseburg board recommends selling park with Willis House

The city of Roseburg has had the historic Willis House on the market for a year, but city officials say potential buyers are not interested unless they can also purchase an adjacent park and gazebo.

The city’s parks commission voted Wednesday to recommend the house and park be sold together. The City Council will make a final decision later this summer.

The two most recent prospective buyers said they would like to convert the 139-year-old former city hall at 744 S.E. Rose St. into a bed and breakfast, but both also want the 7,400-square-foot park, according to city documents.

The parks commission’s chairman, Bob Cotterell, said commissioners did not take lightly the possibility of selling even a small piece of the city’s green space. After much debate, the commission concluded the city should sell the house and park, but invest one-quarter of the proceeds or $25,000, whichever is greater, into acquiring new park land.

The Willis House is listed at $185,000. The value of the park and gazebo have not been determined.

Cotterell, who is also on the City Council, said the gazebo was built by volunteers several decades ago, long enough that city officials no longer recall who did the work. He said he does not anticipate objections to selling the structure.

Selling the house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was hotly debated a year ago. Mayor Larry Rich broke a 4-4 tie and voted to put it up for sale.

“There was some discussion about how nobody wants to lose a piece of history, but then again, it comes down to your wallet. What can you afford?” Cotterell said.

Councilors in favor of selling said they thought a private owner would do a better job of maintaining the home and that it should be on the tax rolls. Councilors who were opposed cited a depressed real estate market and a desire to see the building kept in the city’s hands until a good use could be found.

Cotterell said a bed and breakfast could easily maintain the historic character of the building.

“I think that’s a really appropriate use. I would be very pleased to see that,” he said.

He said sale of the park should include limitations on the property’s use to ensure it remains attractive to the public eye.

Zoning laws also will limit what the new owners can do with both properties.

“There’ll be some flexibility, but not a tremendous amount,” Cotterell said. “Nobody’s going to start buying widgets from China and assembling them into bigger widgets there.”

In a written statement to commissioners, City Manager Lance Colley recommended selling the park.

“(T)his small property does not serve a significant public purpose at this time and is very close to Eagles Park, which includes a higher level of park development and is used much more frequently,” he said.

A private owner should be allowed to use the property only for a yard and not for another building, according to Colley.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

There was some discussion about how nobody wants to lose a piece of history, but then again, it comes down to your wallet. What can you afford?

Bob Cotterell
City councilor


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The News-Review Updated Jul 4, 2013 11:29AM Published Jul 5, 2013 07:08PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.