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Renters receive reprieve

February 2, 2018 GMT

SPRINGFIELD — Timber giant Weyerhaeuser Co. will give Bill and Ray Welch time and money to move out of a rented farmhouse on land the company owns along Highbanks Road.

An attorney for the company — which owns the 94-year-old residence the Welches have called home for nearly 30 years — settled the landlord-tenant dispute with the Welches after appearing with them Tuesday in Lane County Circuit Court. Weyerhaeuser had filed to evict the father and son.

The agreement calls for Bill Welch, 79, and his 59-year-old son to vacate the premises no later than April 2. Weyerhaeuser will pay them $2,000 when they leave. “I’m pleased they’re giving us 60 days,” Ray Welch said. “I thought we’d get 72 hours.”

Weyerhaeuser first notified the Welches in July that they needed to move from the home and offered money to help cover expenses.

Company officials said the Welches came to live on the property as part of an oral sublease with the property’s former tenants, who ran cattle on adjacent land and struck a deal with the Welches to keep watch on the livestock.

Weyerhaeuser’s most recent lease agreement with its tenant, identified in court filings as Hastings Investment Properties, expired Dec. 31. The company contends that because it had no say in the sublease agreement and didn’t receive any rent from the Welches, the family has no legal right to occupy the property.

The Welches have paid a property management company $750 per month to rent the house. “We’ve paid it the whole way through,” Ray Welch’s brother Troy said.

Bill Welch, a retired heavy equipment operator who is legally blind, is a familiar face in his neighborhood. He’s regularly seen seated in his golf cart at the end of his driveway, waving at passing cars while accompanied by his blue heeler Butch. One neighbor has characterized him as the area’s “caretaker.”

“The neighborhood is going to miss their golf cart guy,” said Ray Welch, who works as a custodian for a state agency.

With the help of his brother — who works as a real estate broker — Ray Welch said he’s been approved for a home loan and is ready to make an offer on a house in east Springfield for him and his father.

“It’s better for him to stay in that same part of Springfield,” Ray Welch said, referring to his dad. “We’re just trying to maintain a life.”

Weyerhaeuser spokesman Greg Miller said Thursday that company officials “are sympathetic to (Bill) Welch’s situation, which is why” the company agreed to pay the family $2,000 and allow it some time to move.

“We’re very pleased to have reached a mutually acceptable agreement with Mr. Welch and his family,” Miller said.

He declined to “speculate on what might happen with this property in the future.” The Eugene Water & Electric Board is interested in purchasing some of the land for a substation project, although it wouldn’t require the portion that includes the 94-year-old farmhouse.

Follow Jack Moran on Twitter @JackMoranRG . Email jack.moran@registerguard.com .