PENDLETON — The Pendleton City Council wants more time to mull taking over Edwards Apartments, but members are saying they want to take action soon on the vacant complex at 602 S.E. Dorion Ave.
Meeting as the Pendleton Development Commission on Tuesday, the council postponed a decision until they could meet for a workshop in February.
Charles Denight, the associate director of the commission, presented the city’s options he had discussed with the building’s owners — buy the building and demolish it, buy the building and restore it, or restore the building under a partnership with the current owner. Denight said there was a fourth option involving the city working with neighboring property owners to buy the property and do something with it.
Edwards Apartments owner Joe Bachmeier explained why he was interested in selling the property.
“I thought a renovation project would be good to take some of my free time,” he said. “It ended up being a bigger project than I anticipated.”
If the city agrees to buy the property, Bachmeier wants to sell the property for $50,000. Although that’s higher than the $37,900 he bought it for in 2018, Bachmeier said the figure included taxes that were still owed on the property.
Mayor John Turner noted the building has received an increasing amount of negative attention as it continued to deteriorate.
“The Edwards Apartments building has received more complaints from the citizens of Pendleton in the last dozen years than probably all other properties combined in the city,” he said. “People are embarrassed. They’re frustrated.”
Despite the building’s condition, Turner was skeptical that Bachmeier would be able to convince the commission to invest heavily into the property.
But the prospect of the city demolishing the dilapidated building also had its boosters.
Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock said the county would be willing to contribute $5,000 toward the demolition of Edwards Apartments should the city decide to level the building and sell the bare land to a private developer.
Instead of directly taking over the building, Chuck Wood, a former city councilor and commission chairman, said the city should use existing laws to compel the property owner to do something about it.
“I’m here to say that we either enforce the ordinances that we have or rewrite them again,” he said.
Wood said the property has been a problem since he moved to Pendleton 20 years ago. Built in 1909, the Edwards Apartments was forced to close by the city in 2011 amid frequent calls for service and public health and safety hazards. It’s been vacant and inactive ever since.
Councilor Paul Chalmers, the chairman of the commission, wanted to hold off on making a decision until members could consult with City Attorney Nancy Kerns about the city’s options.
“I don’t want this Edwards Apartments discussion to fall by the wayside, and six months down the road we’re having this discussion again,” he said. “I want to keep this in the foreground.”
Councilors eventually decided to hold a workshop ahead of the commission’s next meeting on Feb. 24.
After the commission meeting ended, members met as the city council to take action on another empty structure.
The council voted to give developer Justin Pratt a property tax refund for his project to turn 2601 S.W. Hailey from an old U.S. Forest Service office into a 33-unit apartment complex, forgoing an estimated $15,766 in property taxes over five years.
Councilor McKennon McDonald was the only councilor to vote against the tax refund, saying she would prefer the city institute a standardized housing incentive program.
The council also took action on several other agenda items.
• The council unanimously approved a sewer facility plan update, which includes a multimillion-dollar list of suggested repairs and improvements to the system over the next 20 years.
Public Works Director Bob Patterson said staff’s main concern is the city’s compliance with the state’s water temperature standards for the sewer plant’s discharge. He added that there’s a “99.9%” chance the city will have to pull out of discharging into the Umatilla River in the future.
• The council also approved an update to the city’s fee schedule, including new or higher fees for nuisance abatement, the Pendleton Convention Center, the Pendleton Aquatic Center, park rentals, the Vert Auditorium, and dog licenses.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect a clarification. The terminology used to describe the closure of the Edwards Apartments was changed.]