County denies Tigard's Bull Mountain boundaries

Commissioners indicate support for putting incorporation question on November ballot, will vote on that next week

HILLSBORO - In a 3-to-2 vote Tuesday, Washington County commissioners rejected the city of Tigard's request to remove more than 60 acres from the boundary of the proposed new city of Bull Mountain.

And, although they don't vote on the issue until next week, the commissioners also indicated their support for putting the question of whether the new city should be formed on the November general election ballot.

'I will not deny the right of the public to have a vote when they've asked for one,' said County Commissioner Roy Rogers, who represents citizens both on Bull Mountain and in the city of Tigard. 'This is what citizenship is all about. This is what democracy is all about.'

The proposed boundaries that will be on the November ballot for voters to consider include about 1.7 square miles and roughly encompass land south of Barrows Road, north of Beef Bend Road and east of Roy Rogers Road to the city of Tigard's limits.

Tuesday's 3-2 decision approving those boundaries, however, does not mean a simple vote will determine the fate of the 28 acres of privately-owned land and 33 acres of publicly owned land - some by Tigard and some by the Tigard Water District and the Intergovernmental Water Board - that Tigard wanted removed from the boundary.

A petition has already been signed and filed by the Intergovernmental Water Board asking for the public sites to be annexed by the city of Tigard. And, theoretically, Tigard could still attempt to annex the rest of the properties before the November vote.

Lawyers for the county, the city and the residents of Bull Mountain testified Tuesday that they did not know whether Bull Mountain had a 'first in time, first in line' right to the land.

Liz Newton, the assistant to the city manager for Tigard, said she did not know what direction the city would take regarding annexing the territory.

'We haven't discussed it with the (city) council,' Newton said. 'We're going to have to look at where we stand.'

She added that the city felt it had taken a logical and reasonable position in making its request to remove more than 60 acres from the Bull Mountain proposed boundary.

In casting the two 'no' votes, both County Commissioner Rogers, a Tigard resident, and County Commissioner John Leeper, of District No. 2, supported the city of Tigard's position - although they disagreed about how much land to remove from the proposed city's boundary.

While Leeper tried to pass a motion (he failed to get a second) on removing all of the land Tigard asked to have removed, Rogers said he wanted only two tax lots to be taken out of the boundary, a total of about 18 acres known as the Cache properties. The acreage is owned by the city of Tigard.

'I empathize with my colleagues in the city. Why have property you own in another city?' Rogers said.

County Commission Chair Tom Brian, a Tigard resident, and Commissioner Dick Schouten, of District No. 1, voted to reject Tigard's request.

Schouten suggested that Bull Mountain residents and Tigard city officials may work better together if some of Tigard's land, particularly the Cache properties which are targeted to someday be public parks, is in the city of Bull Mountain.

'This is a way to force both agencies to do what they ought to be doing,' Schouten said.

Brian said he struggled with the boundary decision, but that he was not persuaded by the city of Tigard's arguments. Tigard officials argued in earlier public testimony that it was unknown what land use rules or permit requirements a new city would impose on the property, and that annexation of the land into Tigard provided certainty with a known entity.

Tigard officials also said they fear that the city of Bull Mountain won't have adequate policing services and that the land won't be well protected from terrorist attacks - a claim that generated disbelief among the supporters of the Bull Mountain proposal.

Brian, too, was unmoved.

'I'm not overly sold on the idea that there is great harm (to Tigard),' by keeping the land in the proposed boundary, he said. 'Changes occur in our lives. We have to let the process work.'

County Commissioner Andy Duyck, of District No. 4, was the swing vote, allowing the boundaries to stand as proposed by the chief petitioners for the incorporation of Bull Mountain.

'I have concerns about … the adequacy of the services the city will provide, but that's not the criteria we use. We're focused today only on the boundaries,' Duyck said, adding that to be consistent with the county's land use philosophy he supported logical boundaries that left no unincorporated islands - lands that could forever end up urban and outside a city's boundaries.

'The safest bet for me would be to go along with the majority,' he said.