Oakridge to ink economic development deal

OAKRIDGE — The mystery is over in Oakridge, a Southern Oregon mountain town where the City Council's secretive bargaining over economic development caused a controversy.

That doesn't mean that townspeople are of one mind about the prospects for the city of more than 3,000 along Oregon 58 between Eugene and the Willamette Pass.

It was a timber town that, like most, had fallen on hard times.

Now, Oakridge officials hope to close a $682,000 deal next month to sell 18 acres in the city's industrial park to Atherton Properties. The Nevada company plans an 800,000-square-foot building housing up to 16 businesses and creating an estimated 545 jobs.

Documents obtained by The Eugene Register-Guard in response to a public records request show that Atherton proposes to bring "under one roof" more than a dozen companies engaged in industries as diverse as printing, land sales, fiberglass and water bottling.

A confidentiality clause in the sales agreement caused protests among residents.

Another major development came to light last week when the City Council approved the sale of a 2-acre parcel along Highway 58 that formerly housed the city's public works department to a Eugene real estate group that, according to sales documents, hopes to use it and adjacent land to develop an outlet mall.

Ted Sobel was renovating a building across the street from City Hall last week as the town started getting details of the deals He and a partner are remodeling a bar as an English-style pub.

"I don't even mind the secrecy," said Sobel, 44, a 17-year resident. "People have been bugging the city for years to get some kind of employment here to replace the mill jobs. Now that they've worked really hard to bring someone in, people are complaining, saying, "What is it?' Come on, guys, be patient."

And, for a man opening a drinking establishment, he said, "More jobs and more housing means more thirsty people."

But at the bar of the Sportsman's Cafe, 35-year resident Bob Gardner, a tree faller, said he was not pleased. "I don't like all the people moving into Oakridge," he said. "I like it like it is. You can pull out onto the road without a bunch of traffic like Sisters has."

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