A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Neighbors hope to save park — by buying it

Written July 7th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Neighbors gather at Hazelwood Park Wednesday. From right are George and Nicole Schukow, Sami Pulver, and Jill Zeller and Stephen Bray, who hope to buy the park from the city.

Families living behind Albany’s Hazelwood Park, which the council has offered for sale, hope to save the wooded parcel by buying it and making it part of their yards.

They told me about their plan — and hopes — as we met at the park on Wednesday evening.

They submitted an offer to the city by the June 22 deadline, they said, and were prepared to make their pitch to the council on July 14, when sale of the park was originally set to be on the council agenda.

But Parks and Recreation Director Kim Lyddane says the Hazelwood matter is being put off, probably until later in the summer or early fall. Pacific Power, which is expanding the Hazelwood Substation next to the park, has asked for an easement on the property, and this is taking time to work out.

Three families are in on the offer to buy the park. They are George and Nicole Schukow, Sami and Anthony Pulver, and Jill Zeller and Stephen Bray. Their houses on Southwest 17th Avenue back up to the 2.5-acre park and its woodland of mature oaks and firs.

Their offer, as I understand it, is about $100,000. The Linn County assessor has valued the parcel — which as public property can’t be taxed — at $94,750. When the council put it up for sale on April 14, City Attorney Sean Kidd recommended that any deal be negotiated in secret before the council holds the hearings required for the sale of public property.

The city parks department wants to get rid of Hazelwood Park, which gets little use, to save on maintenance. Nicole Schukow, one of the neighbors, was told city maintenance expenses were $1,200 a year. It’s mostly the neighbors who over the years have clipped the berry bushes, cut the ivy off the trees, and kept the woodland weeds down.

A private nonprofit, Creating Housing Coalition, has its eyes on Hazelwood Park as the site of a “village” of two dozen tiny houses for people who otherwise might be homeless. The group is in the running for a $100,000 city grant in federal antipoverty funds for property acquisition, and their plan would cut down many of the site’s trees.

The neighbors hoping to buy the park are not getting a government grant. They expect to take out a loan. (hh)

Hazelwood Park the way it looked when I paid a visit on July 3.

22 responses to “Neighbors hope to save park — by buying it”

  1. Shawn says:

    Wonderful. More folks should do this to preserve green space near their homes. This is a better solution rather than appealing to the government for money and preservation of open lands.

    • Steven Reynolds says:

      Shawn…. So then they should be able to deduct this from their property tax and take that amount and apply it toward this? Should we create another organization, one separate from the current government, an organization that keeps the community infrastructure up like parks and roads? Kind of like a city charter organization, same premise as charter schools where citizens can choose where their money is spent?

      Or perhaps when the next elections come around for city council the community will pay more attention, kind of like resident’s paying attention to what’s going on at GAPS right now and taking back control of that situation.

      • Abe Cee says:

        In reality, the group of owners will likely have to pay more property taxes on the new land they own (or the “entity they create to actually make the purchase” will anyway)…in which case, the city will benefit even moreso than if the Housing Coalition acquired the land.

  2. James Engel says:

    Is there a “Go Fund Me” account to help them? I sure wouldn’t want two dozen trailer trash people living in my area either.

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    How could this City Council possibly turn down people that actually care about this property? Stay tuned and you’ll see.

    • Cheryl P says:

      Easy…it’s all about the Benjamins. The City will vote for which ever offer generates the most income for them.

    • James Cahill says:

      Like the other guy said: money. The assessed value is likely less than half the market value. The Org wanting to install a homeless village of 25 shacks will be offering some of their own money AND a $100,000 grant from the feds. So they are planning to use our own money to lower our own property values and reward irresponsible drunks and druggies. Unless the city has a change of heart about giving houses to beggars at the expense of taxpaying voters, I suspect that they would reject a matching offer even if it were for $250,000. Thanks city council.

  4. Jake Jaques JJ Johnny Hartman says:

    In the author’s estimation, all things of value are judged by their dependence or lack thereof on the use of taxpayer monies. Please note the ham-handed jabs taken at the Creating Housing Coalition in the author’s screed.

    In discussing the coalition’s plans to build shelter for Albany’s homeless, the author writes with a sneer: “The group is in the running for a $100,000 city grant in federal antipoverty funds for property acquisition, and their plan would cut down many of the site’s trees.”

    By the way, this is more concern for trees than the author has ever demonstrated. Apparently, deforestation in the hunt for profit is all good whilst tree-cutting to assist fellow human beings is improper. But, didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor….”

    “The city parks department wants to get rid of Hazelwood Park, which gets little use…”
    But, when an idea surfaces putting the property to good use, suddenly (in the eyes of the author) this largely ignored stretch of land becomes hallowed ground.

    At this column’s closing, the author takes one last snarky dig at the non-profit people trying to do something for Albany’s unfortunate when he pens:
    “The neighbors hoping to buy the park are not getting a government grant. They expect to take out a loan.”

    The author suggests, in a moral distortion, the preferred manner for the purchase of property is to borrow money. His reference to pilgrim morality reflects a belief that taxpayer-supported assistance is inherently evil, while any effort using private capital is to be admired. Remember that the Pilgrims were the first of many to steal property without any payment from the native peoples of North America.

    If the author truly believed this take-out-a-loan position, the author should reject any and all Social Security, Medicare and other taxpayer supported subsidies he likely takes advantage of. The author should just “take out a loan” to support his standard of living.

    • James Cahill says:

      I find it a very snarky stretch that putting a park to good use is in your eyes is to clearcut the woods and install a homeless village which will lower all property values in the area. Written like a person who does not live nearby and believes in rewarding bad behavior over the interests of taxpayers. Brilliant.

    • Abe Cee says:

      JJ, there are so many things wrong with your position that it’s hard to know where to begin.

      This private group doesn’t want to lose a park/green space near their homes. They are willing to make a capital outlay to continue it’s existence. I’d wager they might also be disinclined to have the homeless facility near them as well as do most people.

      The issue has been brought up several times regarding the location of the proposed homeless community and it’s been pointed out that the area really isn’t near anything that would be beneficial to their wellbeing – no stores, no public services, etc – nor are there likely to be any added to the general area as it’s residential. A community that was located in the open area near the Albany Helping Hands would seem be a much better option but that isn’t available to my knowledge.

      Of course there is always the option that you could support and allow the community to find a location in your neighborhood, JJ, as that would be the compassionate thing to do, right?

      • George Pugh says:

        Thank you James Carhill and ABC for your calm and reasoned responses to JJJJJH. It is more than he deserves but you represent the usual high quality of posts I expect to find on this blog. (My apologies to Abe Cee if I interpreted his signature as nom de plume.)_

    • L P says:

      It’s well known that you don’t lift people out of poverty and ill health in a food desert. A food desert is an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. Though GPS Market and Dari Mart take SNAP, the food offerings are expensive and poor quality. Adding to health issues and costing them more to eat. How are you lifting these people from poverty by locating them in a junk food oasis, away from needed mental health and medical services?

      I’d like to add that this community is to be self governed. That there is no requirement for sobriety to live there. I’m guessing with the decriminalization of about every drug out there, this could become a problem.

      My understanding is that the community in Eugene this has been modeled after, is basically a dump after a couple of years. I haven’t personally stopped by to see that myself. But have heard it from more than one party who has concerns and made the trip.

      Honestly, this seems like the ego project of someone that doesn’t live in the neighborhood. They won’t have to deal with the fallout. The people who live here do, and they can pat themselves on the back for all the “good” they are doing at their fund raising soirees.. When really, if you wanted to lift people out of poverty and provide them with the much needed services, you would locate them near healthy food sources and the services they need. Not make it harder for them to access healthy, moderately priced food and needed care.

      Let’s not even mention that our “representative” on the city council seemed completely clueless to the existence of this park when asked about it. Maybe ya’ll should get out there and see where there people you “represent” live, outside of downtown area near your business.

  5. Richard Vannice says:

    Re seeking a loan vs a grant – “It is an unwritten law that whoever should constantly receive charity from another shall lose his self respect, and hate him who has taken it away.” Robert Russel Author of “To Catch an Angel” sub title Adventures in the world I cannot see – published in 1962
    Sounds to me that the group wishing to seek a loan still has their self respect and should be admired.

  6. Marty says:

    I hope these three neighbors can buy the said park, trees and all. I would be a crying shame to cut down all the trees. Albany needs more trees, not less. The Creating Housing Coalition should look for land that is closer to services that the proposed residents will use.Let me know if a Go-Fund-Me account is set up, I will gladly contribute!

  7. Spence says:

    First, I find it laudable that a group of neighbors would come together to try and preserve their shared living (green) space.
    And, while low cost housing is sorely needed, the point was raised that this may not be the best location for that use as it is some distance to “essential services,” though if a bus stop is nearby, that may not be as big of an issue as it sounds.

    Second, from the Creating Housing Coalition website (https://creatinghousing.org/about/), an apparent FAQ: “Who will pay for the village?” The response: “CHC hopes to have at least half the cost to build donated by using in-kind donations from area contractors and tradespeople. The rest will come from fundraising efforts. This will not be taxpayer funded!”

    This blog article states “The group is in the running for a $100,000 city grant in federal antipoverty funds for property acquisition…” If it’s grant money from the federal government, and the federal government is funded by taxpayer dollars, wouldn’t that, by definition, make it taxpayer funded?

    Third, from this article comes the line “When the council put it up for sale on April 14, City Attorney Sean Kidd recommended that any deal be negotiated IN SECRET (emphasis added) before the council holds the hearings required for the sale of public property.”

    From another recent blog article

    comes the statement “There were a ‘couple of other issues’ as well, according to Kidd, but he didn’t want to tell the council about them except in closed, executive session.”

    Is this the transparency we’re always hearing so much about?? Frankly, the city’s lawyer advocating secrecy from the public makes me a little hot under the collar.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      When have you ever seen the City Attorney do other than help the City Council circumvent openness about anything. He’s there to find any loophole that helps them achieve their agenda…..

      Shall we vote now for the worst City council in history? Since it contains members from previous City Councils, it’d be a tough call.

  8. MK says:

    Glad to see the neighbors coming forward to express their intent to purchase the park. I agree with other commenters on the lack of amenities that would be most helpful for a low income community to develop there.

    What about the old Mega Foods on Geary/Queen for a place to create a tiny home village? Something in the heart of Albany, within walking distance to necessary things would be more convenient for the residents of that village. No one can argue that simple fact.

    Anyway, I hope those that are ultimately deciding on who gets to buy this property are considerate of the fact that these home owners deserve a fair chance at this property and their reasons for wanting it are valid.

    My fingers are crossed for the homeowners to have their offer accepted!

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      They already have one a few blocks East of the Mega Foods site. We simply don’t need another “project housing” in that neighborhood. There’s enough theft and drug use here already.

      Why not build it in Eugene/Portland?

      • Abe Cee says:

        Bill, the whole idea behind this type of community is to eliminate the theft and drug issues by providing people the things they need to make themselves contributing members of society.

        They already have these in Portland and Eugene and they don’t work…

  9. Rich Kellum says:

    These neighbors should be honored, they do not cry and moan about a problem that has one of the Council as an advocate for the other side, they simply arrange to reach in their own pocket and solve the problem, good on you folks.


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