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Skinner family: Honor the deed! City: Options still open. Councilor: What about EWEB?

Ken Darling carries a sign promoting a website about his great, great grandfather Eugene Skinner and the land the town's namesake deeded to Lane County back in 1855. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Back in 1855, Eugene Skinner deeded land for use by Lane County in what had been called "Skinner's Mudhole," years before Oregon became a state - and the mudhole became Eugene.

The City of Eugene and Lane County had sought a legal opinion on whether the so-called Skinner Restriction still applies more than a century and a half later.

A judge reviewed the motion - and dismissed it, noting there wasn't grounds yet for a court to even look at the case.

For Ken Darling, it's another victory honoring the wishes of his great, great grandfather.

"They couldn't meet the burden of proof just to make the filing, and not even look into the deed at all," Darling said Thursday, "so that must have been a shock for them."

Darling wants local governments to honor the terms of the deed, pure and simple.

That means no City Hall project on the so-called butterfly lot owned by Lane County.

"Take care of what the deed said," Darling suggested, "and open up a dialogue."

At City Hall, a spokesperson declined to call the ruling by Judge Richard Barron a setback for the County or City.

"It doesn't preclude any of the options that the mayor and the council and the county commission are considering," Jan Bohman with the City of Eugene said.

Councilor Mike Clark said the ruling didn't surprise him - and that it reinforces his argument that the future of City Hall lies to the north along the Willamette River in the building presently occupied by the Eugene Water & Electric Board. EWEB has signaled an interest to leave that building and consolidate offices on Roosevelt Boulevard.

"I welcome, frankly, that decision because I've wanted for a very long time for EWEB to be the location for our new City Hall," said Clark.

Clark calls the advantages of moving to the EWEB campus obvious.

"Not only is it twice the space for half the money, but it gives us an opportunity to grow in the future at an incremental pace," he said.

Bohman said that if the City and County decide to proceed with the butterfly lot, they can go back to court. The judge ruled that it was too soon for a court to weigh in on whether an action was legal or not because no action had taken place.

"Then there would be enough reason for the judge to revisit that and make a determination," she said.

But Darling said the governments have gone down this road before: a century ago, after Eugene built a City Hall and jail on that same land.

"The city had their hall, city hall right there," he said. "Lane County kicked them off."

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