County amends surplus property policy

Original owners may buy back surplus county property in new code amendment

VANCOUVER — Members of the Board of County Councilors approved an ordinance Tuesday that amends county code to change how the county handles the sale of surplus property.

Under the previous code, property acquired by the county for development purposes and then determined to not be needed was surplussed, and bidders were allowed to place bids on the property. The new ordinance allows the original owner of the property, before it was acquired by the county, to purchase back the property at the same price the county acquired it, plus any interest that may have accrued.

Members of the Board of County Councilors approved an ordinance on Tuesday that allows owners of property that was acquired by the county to purchase the property back after the county determines that it is not needed for a project. Photo by Alex Peru
Members of the Board of County Councilors approved an ordinance on Tuesday that allows owners of property that was acquired by the county to purchase the property back after the county determines that it is not needed for a project. Photo by Alex Peru

According to Public Works Director Heath Henderson, sometimes when a property is acquired by the county, changes in the project mean that it may no longer be necessary. Through the original surplussing process, Henderson said that the original owner “would basically have to compete with the rest of the bidding community,” and potentially pay a higher price than what the property was bought for.

Council Member Julie Olson said that the county usually acquires property under the threat of eminent domain, and Henderson responded that in cases where that property needs to be surplussed, “this is a fair way to turn that around.”

Council Member Jeanne Stewart said that “we don’t do unnecessary acquisition,” and asked when such a circumstance as addressed in the ordinance would arise.

According to Henderson, it can happen as plans for a project change. He cited the development of stormwater facilities as a hypothetical example. One planned site may have been acquired, but then the site may be determined to be inadequate or not needed and the property is no longer necessary. The county then would need to dispose of that property.

Henderson also noted that “it’s very rare that we’ve acquired property through the eminent domain process.”

The county council members unanimously passed the ordinance.

The full text of the ordinance is available online at https://www.clark.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dept/files/the-grid/2018/2018_Q1/d022718_Hearing_SurplusProperty.pdf.

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About The Author

Alex Peru is a 2017 graduate of Washington State University Vancouver. He has a bachelor’s degree in History and a double minor in Political Science and Business Administration. Peru grew up in Battle Ground, and graduated from CAM Academy in 2013. He worked for The VanCougar, WSU Vancouver’s campus newspaper, for three years, including one year as the editor-in-chief. When not working, Peru enjoys reading books about history, working on cars and enjoying the outdoors in Clark County’s beautiful rivers, lakes and forests.

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