PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A development company is suing the city of Vancouver, claiming the city has landlocked the company’s property by creating a Safe Stay village on neighboring property and refusing the company vehicle access to its land.
The company, Herontide II, filed the lawsuit in Clark County on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
According to the lawsuit, Herontide II owns property located at 5264 NE 121st Avenue in Vancouver and had been using the public right-of-way land, immediately north of city-owned land and west of Herontide II’s property, known as Northeast 51st Circle to access its property.
However, the lawsuit states that on Dec. 9, 2021, the city granted itself a right of way use and occupation permit for Northeast 51st Circle. This allowed the city exclusive use of approximately 350 feet at the cul-de-sac end of Northeast 51st Circle.
The city closed the permit area for all other public use, completely blocking all public street and ingress and egress access to the Herontide II property, according to the lawsuit.
The company claims the city did this after it was already aware Herontide II had plans to develop the property and would need vehicle access to it.
In February 2020, Herontide II said it notified the city of its plans to develop its property. The city-approved building plans show construction access to the property would be through Northeast 51st Circle.
After the company obtained stormwater and civil permits for the housing development on its property, the lawsuit said it asked the city to restore its access to Northeast 51st Circle. The city declined the request and said traffic through the right-of-way would disturb the tenants of the Safe Stay community it had created in the middle of the street.
According to the lawsuit, Herontide II proposed an alternative and asked if it could drive across city land adjacent to Northeast 51st Circle, along the bypass route, to access the Herontide II property. The city also denied this request and said it would also disturb the tenants and could have negative environmental impacts.
Despite its refusal, the lawsuit claims that the city began driving its own large construction vehicles along the bypass route in July 2022.
In August 2022, Herontide II again asked to use the bypass route to access its property, since the city had been using the same route for a similar purpose
In September 2022, the lawsuit says the city agreed to allow the company to use the bypass route, but only if it met several conditions that the city had not imposed on itself or its own construction vehicles.
Herontide II believes the city is violating several Vancouver city ordinances and asks the court to grant it access rights to Northeast 51st Circle. It also accuses the city of taking its private property without compensation and asks to be repaid for damages.
“Herontide II has been specially damaged because the City’s actions cut off the only public street access to Herontide II’s property,” the lawsuit states.
The city of Vancouver said it is aware of the complaint Herontide II filed against it and issued the following statement:
“The City understands the serious impact that construction disagreements can have on all affected residents and parties. City Attorney’s Office is prepared to file an appearance in opposition to the lawsuit. The City is committed to taking necessary steps to protect Vancouver’s critical water resources and preserve the quality of life of those residing in the City’s Safe Stay Communities.”
Herontide II said it supports the city’s efforts to improve access to housing by creating the Safe Stay communities to house homeless people. The lawsuit says that the company has even offered to let the city use its property for low-income or homeless housing projects, but never received a response from the city.
The Northeast 51st Circle Safe Stay Community is home to 20 modular shelters that can house up to 40 people at a time. Within its first 6 months of operation, it housed 46 people and of those, 14 have moved on to permanent housing.
In an informational session Tuesday night about a proposed third Safe Stay Community site, Deputy City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said Safe Stay sites are meant to be temporary and have a lifespan of about 3 years.