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Sentiments on water treatment facility are becoming clear

Robinwood neighbors not warming up to water plant expansion becoming clear
by: vern uyetake Plans to expand Lake Oswego’s water treatment plant in West Linn’s Robinwood neighborhood have some neighbors up in arms.

Despite its best efforts, the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership is having a hard time swaying West Linn residents to support the expansion of a water treatment facility in the Robinwood neighborhood.

The partnership held an open house Oct. 27 in West Linn to share updated plans, landscaping options and other design ideas. Every resident of the Robinwood neighborhood - about 1,100 people - was invited, but only 32 people attended.

'I thought it went pretty well,' said Jane Heisler, communications director for the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership.

The city of Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant between Kenthorpe Way and Mapleton Drive in West Linn since 1968. In cooperation with the city of Tigard, Lake Oswego now wants to expand the plant and run a new, bigger pipeline to the facility to address both cities' future water needs. Construction is expected to take 28 months in West Linn.

The Lake Oswego-Tigard partnership has been working with Robinwood neighbors since April 2010 and has met with them 45 times, according to Heisler.

'Our goal is to try to show the residents that we have listened,' Heisler said. 'We've been working very hard.'

After working with the Robinwood Neighborhood Association's Great Neighbor Committee, Heisler said the partnership has tried to incorporate what it sees as improvements in design and architecture.

Changes to the plan from the last time residents looked at it include increased setbacks, a more compact plant with a smaller footprint, a more developed landscape plan and screening.

Some West Linn residents, however, remain skeptical.

The partnership received mixed reviews on the station topics at the open house. Many commenters appreciated the changes, while some still were not happy with the project as a whole, stating: 'Go away,' and 'Nice effort - still stinks.'

The plant site

To accommodate the long-anticipated plant expansion, Lake Oswego purchased four lots adjacent to the existing facility between 1989 and 1995. At the time, officials did not realize that existing covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC and Rs) prohibit anything but residential use of the properties.

To lift the CC and Rs, Lake Oswego needs 75 percent of affected neighbors to sign a waiver. Right now, Heisler said, the city does not have anywhere near the number of signatures needed, even though the partnership has offered $1,000 to each property owner who agrees to waive the deed restrictions.

A group of 29 neighbors has secured an attorney to represent its concerns. Eric Jones, who is part of the group, grew up on Mapleton Drive. His mother still lives there, and he has a lot of questions about the proposed plant expansion.

One of the benefits the partnership is touting for West Linn is a trail that would cut across the plant property that students could use going to and from Cedaroak Park Primary School rather than walking along Highway 43. However, Jones said a majority of neighbors do not want the path.

'We don't want folks cutting through the neighborhood,' he said.

Another design element Jones is unhappy with is an emergency road running through the site. He worries it could increase traffic in the neighborhood and wants the road gated to prevent through traffic.

Jones said that the existing plant is only partially visible in the winter months, but he is concerned it will be a blight if it increases in size and that it could affect property values.

Neighbors are also concerned about public safety and what would happen if a fire broke out at the plant.

'We understand this is very likely to move forward,' he said. At the same time, he noted, adding Tigard to the plant operations tripled its space needs. 'There's going to be a huge impact.'

Jones said that he would like to see some tangible benefits of the plant expansion, such as free water.

The pipeline

To get untreated water to the plant, the partnership needs to run a new, upsized pipe from the Clackamas River.

The existing pipeline runs through Mary S. Young Park. Original plans were to follow the current pipe's route; however, environmental protections have made approval nearly impossible. Instead, the new 4-foot-wide pipeline is now proposed to run under eight residential lots and come up on the southeast corner of the plant property.

'West Linn staff has concurred that this is the best option,' Heisler said.

She added that the partnership is finalizing the legal description with offers of compensation to affected homeowners.

Though the pipeline will be deep underground and no property will be disturbed in the process, some of the property owners do not like the idea of a pipe being drilled beneath their homes.

'We do not support the devaluation of long-term risks imposed by the proposed installation of the 4-foot raw water transmission route on the properties (of) our neighbors and neither should you,' stated an Oct. 26 letter sent by Rebecca Walters and signed by 48 residents to West Linn's mayor, city council and planning commission. 'At every turn, a new and greater impact is being imposed on us by another city while our own city does nothing in support of their citizens, who are strongly in opposition to this expansion.

'What are the benefits to our city for this huge intrusion and invasion of our neighborhood?'

West Linn Assistant City Manager Chris Kerr said the city won't take a side on the water plant issue but will review any application for a conditional use permit.

If the partnership is unable to get signatures it needs, it may start a condemnation process. Utilities have the conditional authority to condemn property outside of their jurisdictions, Kerr said.

The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership will hold a meeting for the Robinwood neighborhood at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Cedaroak Park Primary School in West Linn. The partnership hopes to submit a conditional use application to West Linn in early January.