IRVINE : If City Sells Land, It Will Be Market Price

If the City Council decides to sell the 1.4-mile-long former railroad line behind homes in the Northwood community, the adjoining residents will have to pay fair market value.

The council voted unanimously this week to hire an appraiser and to notify property owners next month on how much it would cost to buy the piece of the 60-foot-wide strip by their homes. The notice will ask residents to write back to the city if they are interested in buying a portion and fencing it into their back yards.

The council has not decided whether to sell the land. But council members said that if not enough residents want to buy it, the city would favor keeping the land and eventually developing a narrow park and bicycle trail. The city has long planned to develop a trail, but has lacked the $2.4 million to pay for it.

The idea of selling the land is being promoted by some residents living along the abandoned right of way, which the Irvine Co. gave to the city several years ago. Some Northwood residents have been pushing the council to sell the land or develop a trail to rid themselves of the problem. The area attracts teen-agers and vandals, who create noise and trash problems, some residents have said.

Some residents suggested that the city sell them the land for $1 a parcel, so that the city can easily unload the property and rid itself of potential problems. But the council rejected that option.

Most Irvine residents appearing at Tuesday's City Council meeting objected to selling the land, and said the city should keep the land as open space.

"We're talking about 10 acres of green space," said Mary Ann Gaido, a former council member and planning commissioner. "Ten acres of open space are valuable."

The council also approved conducting some form of poll of Northwood residents to determine whether they would be willing to pay slightly higher property taxes temporarily in order to build the greenbelt and bike path. City staff members were asked to present ideas for conducting the poll at the council's Sept. 24 meeting.

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