Monday, January 14, 2013

Naumes Sold Us a Pig in a Poke

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, February 2, 2010 

There was a City/County meeting last Thursday, and on the agenda was the City’s lack of maintenance of the orchard in the River Road Reserve.  I hear that the City disputes that it has become a fire hazard, as they contract with a farmer to mow it.  He can only mow between the rows of trees; blackberries are taking over the rows, and the weeds are thick there.
But the fire hazard there is only a chance.  The risk of disease and insects breeding in and spreading from that orchard and becoming a hazard to fruit trees all over this valley is a certainty.  My father is much more worried about that than the fire risk as he has fruit trees that are hard enough to keep healthy without 150 acres of disease and insect pests nearby.  I hear that the City said that they will look into the disease problem.  Will our manager and staff finally watch the Abandoned Orchards video on
I don’t blame the City for buying that land; they truly didn’t know any better.  They aren’t farmers.  It took 4 years and seeing brown leaves hanging on the trees for this professional gardener to think about the disease problems from that orchard. 
Under Oregon law, Naumes had an obligation to disclose all information about that property.  I believe a case can be made that Naumes should have disclosed that commercial orchards have to immediately be torn out if the buyer does not plan to maintain the trees by twice-yearly year pruning, and that the tearing out of that orchard is complicated by the heavy iron wire, over ¼ inch thick, strung across major portions of it, plus the hop poles and plastic irrigation lines that make fire an even greater-than-usual hazard in the orchard.
Naumes would say that the City should have known, but this is not information that anyone but a farmer would know, which is why Naumes had to get the City to buy it; no farmer would take on the liability of that particular orchard with its hop wires and poles.
My father wondered who in Naumes sold us that property and what argument they used to get the City to buy it.  I believe that they used the chemical contamination of a small piece as a stalking horse, saying that they couldn’t afford to clean it up and weren’t obligated to, but that disclosure of that fact meant that they couldn’t get a farmer to buy it.  But the City could get a Superfund grant to clean it up, and end up with cheap land for a park.  The City Council, being mostly developers, was blinded by $11,000 per acre, not knowing the liability of that orchard that they were buying so cheap.  Naumes knew that they would be blinded, and did not disclose the major liability of the orchard itself.

Published at Yahoo Voices under Land and Liability #10

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