Bellview Grange, school at odds over easement

The Ashland Planning Commission was blindsided at its Tuesday meeting when it learned the Bellview Grange would not agree to a "perpetual easement" the Bellview Elementary School needs for parking and access through its property.

Howard Barash, president of the Bellview Grange Board, told commissioners that he wants to work with the Ashland School Board to find an amicable solution to the problem and that the two boards currently are in negotiations with each other.

He said he presented the school board with four alternative options, one being that the school district purchase all or part of the Grange's property.

Commissioners John Fields and Michael Dawkins looked shocked when they heard the news.

Commissioner Melanie Mindlin said, "I feel like this is coming out of left field."

Tom Dimitre said he felt it was kind of late in the game to learn that there are property problems.

Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said the Grange had requested two appraisals""one for the land necessary for access to the school, and one for the entire property.

After the Bellview hearing, Di Chiro said she had just provided those appraisals to the Grange earlier that day. She said the partial land appraisal came roughly to $120,000 and $225,000 for the entire property.

Di Chiro said the land in question was deeded to the Grange from Bellview school back in the 1930s. Since that time, the school has had an implied easement with the Grange and has used the property as an exit from the school for decades, she said.

Di Chiro said both the Grange and the school district want to work toward finding an agreeable resolution, and that the school district would be very agreeable to purchasing the land from the Grange.

After the planning hearing, Barash said the reason the planning commission was just hearing about the property issue is because the Grange board just restructured recently and voted in an entirely new board.

"The old board had been in negotiations with the school district, but the new board did not feel the agreement presented to us was in the best interest of the Grange or the community we serve," he said. "We also don't feel that the easement agreement as written is equitable."

A building permit cannot be issued until the property issue is resolved. But the commission agreed that it could be handled by planning staff and not have to come before the planning commission again unless the site plans had to be substantially changed.

The commissioners, except Dave Dotterer who was absent, approved OgdenRoemerWilkerson Architecture's modifications to the site plan for Bellview Elementary, including a more aesthetic transition between the original school and the new construction. The historic commission will take a look at those plans at its next meeting.

David Wilkerson with the Medford architectural firm also addressed concerns about too many conflicting turning movements by making one of the lanes a "right turn only" lane. The revised plan also includes the 68 bicycle parking spaces required by city ordinance.

Wilkerson, along with Jim Conley of DLR Group in Portland, also presented plans for the Ashland High School's 19,375-square-foot auxiliary gym and music suite addition. The topic will continue at the commission's March 11 meeting.

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