Tuesday, June 3, 2003
By LADD HENDERSON
Special to the News
Three months ago, the headlines in the H.R. News read “CGCC takes option on land in Hood River.” This was not true. The college has never held an option on our property, which was the property identified in the article.
We asked Bob Cole, of the college staff, to correct the article since they had been the source of the misinformation. No correction was ever made. Now we read on the front page of your paper (May 17) that “Directors briefly maintained an option to purchase private property on Country Club Road, but cancelled this when negotiations with the owner failed to resolve various differences between the parties.” How do you “briefly maintain” something that never existed? No option has ever been signed and no money has ever changed hands!
Since the Columbia Gorge Community College is continuing to publicize their “search” for a campus site in Hood River County, I believe that the telling of our experience might be helpful.
Upon hearing that the college was looking for a satellite campus in Hood River, we contacted them in June 2002. Seeing the property, the staff expressed great interest and enthusiasm over finding a property which would adapt readily to a campus and leave room for some commercial development to make the campus self-amortizing. After visits by staff and some college board members, we began collectively looking at various financial options culminating in a letter from us, dated Oct. 2, 2002, which outlined the different financial proposals which had been discussed and were deemed viable. They were:
A 4 percent lease, with CPI correction, with ownership being gifted to the college in 75 years;
A charitable remainder trust (lifetime);
A charitable remainder trust (annuity for 20 years); or
A straight installment sale.
I analyzed all of the proposals and found that although the two charitable remainder trust plans and the lease work well in many cases, the fact that the college would be eligible for 50 percent grant monies and low interest rate loans made an outright purchase the best option for the college.
When communications were reduced to monthly “we’re still interested” phone calls, we decided the college had lost interest, only to be sent a “Letter of Intent” which now included a non-firm price. It also cut the previously discussed option payment in half and even those payments were proposed to be placed in a special escrow account to be released only with college approval. We immediately explained to the college that this was not acceptable and that such an offer put the veracity of the college’s offer in question.
The next move by the college was to quickly approve an option with intentional flaws and publicly announced that they now held an option on the property for a Hood River campus. The proposed option was written to allow the college to have no risk whatsoever and have all payments refunded if the college was even “advised that any of the warranties was untrue when made...” To make sure that this would apply, the option included an untrue warranty concerning an existing lease!
After we spent a day and a half of our attorney’s time correcting all of the flaws in the option, the college’s Portland attorney (apparently no local attorney could meet the college’s standard) began an almost daily series of new amendments to his own option. The real capper was a binding arbitration agreement giving the college the ability to act on our behalf allowing them to obligate our property to hundreds of thousands of dollars and then simply walk away from the option. Surely they could not have believed that this would be acceptable. We believe this was a purposeful, intentional plan to scuttle the agreement while publicly citing “negotiations with the owner failed to resolve various differences...”
Although we began this process with great enthusiasm for participation in the development of a campus on our property, with the innumerable benefits to this community, our enthusiasm has now totally disappeared. I believe that any reasonable person would conclude from our experience that the “search” for a campus in Hood River by the CGCC is disingenuous at best.
According to your recent article, we are left with the choices of a temporary campus at the high school, leased space next to Rite Aid or a parcel adjacent to the sewage treatment plant. I would endorse the proposed site downwind of the sewage treatment plant for the new campus, although I am sure the students would soon begin fondly referring to it as Peeuu U. After dealing with the college for the last nine months, I might think the name is appropriate regardless of their location!
Ladd Henderson lives in Hood River.