Missteps cited by both residents and city during hearing

Plans to build a small pump station keep hitting stumbling blocks in West Linn. With accusations coming from both residents and the city, it is unclear whether an appeal against the project stands VERN UYETAKE - The proposed pump station on Bland Circle will match the forest green color of the current reservoir.

The West Linn City Council heard the appealed land use case during its June 25 meeting. The plan was originally approved by the planning commission April 25.

As its most recent water system improvement project, the city plans to build a new pump station and install a new water line at its Bland Circle reservoir in the Savanna Oaks neighborhood. The project, included in the city's six-year capital improvement plan, is budgeted at $1.25 million.

The plan calls for housing the pump station equipment inside a 15-foot-tall, 352-square-foot concrete block building located near the southeast corner of the site. New water lines would connect the pump to the reservoir and distribute water to the Rosemont water pressure zone, which serves 6,451 people, according to Public Works Director Ken Worcester.

The city's water system is broken down into four zones. Each zone has a pump station and a reservoir to help manage water pressure. The new Bland Circle pump station will service the Rosemont neighborhood.

The site, which was annexed to West Linn in 2006, has contained the city's Bland reservoir facility since 1980. The reservoir is a cylindrical, above-ground tank approximately three stories tall and 42 feet in diameter, according to city records.

The plan calls for constructing a new pump station to address increased need with the construction of the new Trillium Creek Primary School. A large portion of funding for the project is being paid for through system development charges paid by the school district.

According to city staff, the Rosemont reservoir storage is significantly undersized and redundant water pipeline interconnections are required to overcome this deficiency. Completion of this project is tied to, but not contingent on, the occupancy of the new Trillium Creek Primary School.

The city is not adding more storage to the facility but improving water pressure, Worcester said. Along with the new pump station, a larger 12-inch-line is proposed along Weatherhill Road, which will tie into the Rosemont pressure zone that feeds water to the Tanner Basin and the Savanna Oaks neighborhood.

An underground pipe would connect the pump station to the reservoir on the north side of the site, and a new water line would connect the pipe to existing waterlines in the Rosemont zone.

The planning commission approved a conditional use permit for the project during its April 25 meeting. However, the Savanna Oaks Neighborhood Association filed an appeal against it on May 17, citing a laundry list of reasons.

One of the reasons listed is that the new pump station would service the Stafford area, but Worcester said that is not true and that the pump will service those already in the urban growth boundary.

Those appealing the permit also listed seismic hazards, safety hazards, environmental impact, lack of proper screening and engineering concerns.

Before the appealed hearing could begin Monday night, resident Karie Oakes testified that the city council did not have jurisdiction to even hear the case because the record was incomplete. She told the council that the planning commission meeting minutes were not included in the record.

"My judgment is that the record is incomplete," Oakes said. "If the council has not received the minutes as well, they can't proceed."

Tim Ramis, a contracted attorney for West Linn, said the written minutes are not a required component for the hearing and that the video recordings of the meetings have been available online. He advised the council that the hearing could proceed.

However, the legitimacy of the appeal could be questioned. Although SONA president David Rittenhouse did testify at the April 25 meeting and said he was the president of the association, he did not say he was testifying on behalf of the association. To have standing in an appeal, a person or group must have testified during the initial hearing.

On top of that, Worcester challenged the legitimacy of the May 3 SONA meeting where a group voted to appeal the project. He contends no proper association meeting was convened because proper notice wasn't given. He explained that, because the city owns several properties in the Savanna Oaks neighborhood, the city should have received notice of the meeting and he could not find a posted agenda on the website.

SONA member Roberta Schwarz said the neighborhood has handled meeting notices via email for years and questioned why the city was pointing this detail out now.

"Nothing is new here, folks. It's like pulling a rabbit out of a hat; where is this coming from?" Schwarz asked.

According to the city website, the association has not submitted an agenda to the city website since January 2006. However, of the city's 11 neighborhood associations, only four routinely submit agendas and minutes from their meetings.

Despite the accusations on both sides, and Councilor Teri Cummings' request to delay it, the hearing proceeded.

"We have everything in place to have a hearing tonight," Mayor John Kovash said, urging to conduct the hearing.

Out of frustration, resident Ken Pryor got up from the audience and left the room, saying, "How can you hear the appeal if it's not valid? This is absolute rubbish."

Savanna Oaks resident Ed Schwarz spoke on behalf of the SONA. He urged the council to deny the application and send it back to staff to rework with the input of neighbors. He cited safety and aesthetics as the main topics of concern.

He requested additional safety features at the pump station and an onsite backup generator. He also asked that the pump station be buried a few feet.

Worcester, representing the city's application, said there was no need for a generator as the pump station itself is an added redundancy in the water system, supported by two neighboring pump stations that service the Rosemont pressure zone, one of which has a generator.

Worcester also said that burying the pump station would affect water pressure and that the real safety concerns are tied to the existing reservoir, not the proposed pump station.

Of the residents who testified against the application, none of them live immediately adjacent to the property.

"Shame on you if you vote for this," Roberta Schwarz scolded the council. "Shame on you Mr. Worcester for going with this."

Ed Schwarz asked for a continuance of the meeting and the council complied before reaching deliberation.

The council moved to continue the hearing until Aug. 13, accepting written testimony on the planning commission meeting minutes until July 2 at 5 p.m. The applicant then has until July 9 at 5 p.m. to rebut anything submitted, after which the record will be closed.

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