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Protecting trees complicates city planning

Regional government studies balance of wild habitat, city expansion

Metro, the regional government charged with managing growth, has discovered belatedly that it also needs to protect trees.

It began buying land for preservation several years ago and currently is working on regulations to protect waterways and wildlife habitat. But this new environmental awareness is complicating the most important decision that Metro will make this year Ñ whether to expand the urban growth boundary.

Under state law, Metro must maintain a 20-year supply of buildable land within the boundary. Metro assesses the region's future needs every five years. It will complete such a review in December.

But Metro also is in the process of developing new regulations for natural areas within the boundary. Among other things, the council is considering restrictions on new development along rivers, creeks and streams. The council is looking at protecting other wildlife habitats as well.

Such protections could dramatically increase the amount of land that Metro needs to bring within the boundary to maintain a 20-year supply of buildable land.

The issue already is coming into focus. The Metro Council is studying whether to expand the growth boundary to include approximately 22,000 largely undeveloped acres in the Damascus area of Clackamas County.

Planners already are talking about building an entirely new city in the area. It would feature the newest development ideas, including mixed-use neighborhoods where people live near where they work and shop.

'It's not a done deal,' says Metro Councilor Rod Park. 'But if we have to expand the boundary, it would make more sense to create a complete community in the Damascus area than make a series of small expansions everywhere else.'

However, he says, Metro still needs to determine how much land in the Damascus area should be preserved.

'We may find that most of the land needs to be preserved to protect the environment,' Park says. 'We may have to double or even triple the size of the expansion just to get enough buildable land.'

Contact Jim Redden at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..