Amazon Headwaters Parcel Sold

Amazon headwaters parcel sold; buyers plan housing

By Christian Wihtol
The Register-Guard
SEPT. 4, 2014

For nearly 15 years they fought Eugene City Hall, the state’s land use system and their neighbors for the right to build housing in south Eugene near the Amazon headwaters.

And eventually, last year, they scored a major victory in the courts.

But now they’ve lost big time.

Martin and Leslie Beverly of Eugene, who have tried since 2000 to develop homes on their 26 stream-laced, wooded acres at the southeast end of Eugene, have lost their land in a foreclosure process to a Springfield property company.

The new owners, headed by Springfield CPA James Youel, say they’re looking into putting a large multiunit affordable-­housing complex on the property, which neighbors have wanted to preserve as parkland.

The Beverlys were unable to keep up with roughly $1 million in mortgages they took out on the land in 2006 and 2008, and have handed the acreage over to Dynasty Holdings LLC, a real estate investment business formed by Youel, according to records filed with Lane County.

Youel said he and his partners Bob Tate and Gail Louden are the new owners.

Youel said they’re looking into either developing the property or selling it to entities he declined to identify.

“The reason we acquired it was we felt there was a little bit of money to be made,” Youel said.

Tate said the group is legally entitled to develop up to 7.5 units per acre of apartment housing for lower-income residents on some areas of the site. More units of affordable apartments could fit onto the property than the single-family homes the Beverlys were aiming for, Tate said. “We’re figuring that would work better,” he said.

The ownership change is a surprise twist in a long-standing, high-profile struggle that pitted the Beverlys against the Southeast Neighbors neighborhood association and, at times, city officials.

After suffering legal setbacks and defeats on three of the development scenarios, the couple last October won a major victory when the state Court of Appeals upheld a Eugene Planning Commission ruling that the couple was entitled to create a 47-lot planned unit development on 18 of the acres.

The win made the land much more attractive to developers, said Eugene attorney Bill Kloos, who represented the Beverlys at that time. The Beverlys had the 18 acres for sale for $2.5 million, he said.

But even as they were marketing the property late last year, they were struggling to keep up with a $750,000 mortgage they had taken out on it in 2006, property records show. In December 2013, their lender, Umpqua Bank, declared the Beverlys in default. Umpqua told the couple they had to immediately pay $624,854 in principal plus fees and other costs, or else lose the property in foreclosure.

Umpqua then assigned — in essence, sold — the mortgage, for an undisclosed amount, to Dynasty Holdings, according to property records. Youel declined to say how much Dynasty paid.

Youel said he had heard that the Beverlys’ project “had stalled for lack of funding,” and it “perked his interest,” so he contacted Umpqua, bought the debt and began negotiating with the Beverlys, whom he already knew. The Beverlys in late July handed the 26 acres to Dynasty in a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

The Beverlys had also taken out a $250,000 loan from a Eugene company, CLS Investments, in 2008, secured against the south Eugene land, according to property records. Dynasty bought that debt from the Eugene company earlier this year for $167,500, according to property records.

Dynasty’s only other Lane County property is a five-acre warehouse and factory complex in west Eugene. Another Youel-led property company owns farmland west of Eugene. Youel is also president of Dynasty Concrete, a construction company in west Eugene.

Neighbors of the south Eugene land for years have pushed the city to buy and preserve it.

Eugene attorney Charlie Tebbutt, who represents the Southeast Neighbors neighborhood association, said that effort will continue.

The land “is still a high-acquisition target to preserve the Amazon headwaters,” Tebbutt said.

The Beverlys began their south Eugene development venture in the late 1990s, buying 40 acres for about $600,000, according to property records.

In 1999, they sold 14 acres to the city and the Audubon Society for $180,000 for park use.

Subsequently, while battling to win development approvals, they offered the remaining 25 acres to the city, asking $4 million.

But the city balked at buying the land, opting to buy open space elsewhere for much less money per acre. While the Beverlys were asking close to $100,000 an acre, the city was buying parkland elsewhere for $10,000 to $15,000 an acre.