Water plant in West Linn gets no special treatment

As long as LOT complies with city requirements, city cannot forcibly stop the project
by: VERN UYETAKE Signs such as this one near West Linn’s water plant are visible to motorists and play off the fact that 75 percent of the affected residents must sign a waiver to lift the CC&Rs.

Like any other business that wants to build or grow in the city of West Linn, the proposed installation of a pipeline and an expansion of the Lake Oswego water treatment plant need to jump through the appropriate hoops and leap over the usual hurdles. The city of West Linn ensures the project is not getting any special treatment, despite what some of the plant's neighbors might think.

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

The proposed plant site includes several buildings clustered together near Kenthorpe Way, a walking path along one side of the site, landscaping and fencing options. The expansion will increase the plant's capacity from 16 million gallons of water a day to up to 38 million gallons a day.

Many of the plant's neighbors have expressed concern about the potential of a pipe running beneath their homes, the size and noise of the plant, the potential devaluation of their homes and the disruption the construction will cause in the area.

The city has received numerous emails and communications from neighbors citing a conflict of interest, complaining of 'behind-the-scenes' meetings, pleading for intervention and declaring that the project should be put to a vote.

'This is where we need you, the city of West Linn, to represent us as your constituents,' stated an email sent by Natalie Cooper.

However, city staff maintains that their hands are tied. As long as Lake Oswego-Tigard Partnership (LOT) complies with all city requirements, it cannot forcibly stop the project.

'The city does not have the authority to hold up, or defer, any complete application that is made by an applicant. The exact procedures and criteria for reviewing applications are provided for in our CDC (community development code),' wrote City Manager Chris Jordan in an email addressed to Rebecca Walters and copied to many neighbors.

'Lake Oswego-Tigard is like any other developer,' Jordan said, explaining that the partnership must send out all the proper notices, hold all the standard meetings, comply with all city codes and be approved by the city planning commission.

'This is the same way we treat every developer,' Assistant City Manager Chris Kerr said.

Kerr and Jordan likened the water plant process to the upcoming police station construction. The police station will have to go through the same land-use proceedings and get approved by the planning commission, even though it was a city-recommended and voter-approved project.

The plant, which will hold up to three million stored gallons of water underground, also serves as an emergency backup water supply for West Linn. Under an existing agreement with Lake Oswego, West Linn has an intertie at Old River Road and Kenthorpe Way that the city can tap into in an emergency, such as a major fire. West Linn officials said they this access to emergency water will continue with the new LOT partnership, thus relieving West Linn from building its own.

'We could save millions of dollars,' Jordan said. 'It is our responsibility to explore opportunities that could save our community millions of dollars.'

Though the city wants to tap into the potential for greater emergency water access, Jordan stated that access has no impact on whether or not the project gets approved.

Along with the expansion, LOT will make West Linn-mandated improvements to the street for stormwater management and sidewalk improvements.

To accommodate the expansion of the plant, Lake Oswego purchased four lots adjacent to the existing facility between 1989 and 1995. At the time, the city did not realize existing covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC and Rs) prohibit anything but residential use of the property. To lift the CC and Rs, Lake Oswego needs 75 percent of the affected residents to sign a waiver.

To get the water to the plant, the partnership needs to run a new upsized pipe from the Clackamas River. The current pipeline runs through Mary S. Young Park. Original plans were to just follow the existing pipeline, however, there are four environmental overlays making approval a challenge. There is another option of running the new four-foot-wide pipeline under eight residential lots, including a small piece of city-owned property, and come up on the southeast corner of the plant property. LOT has not yet provided the city or residents with a firm option.

The waiting and lack of set plans is upsetting to some who live nearby, who want to see the full extent of the entire project, including easements, property acquisitions and construction impacts. However, West Linn officials say they want the same information.

To help neighbors being affected by the plant expansion, the city has gone 'over and beyond what is typical,' according to Jordan. The city paid for an outside consultant to come in and give neighbors their options and advice on how to work with LOT. A city planner has also been appointed to work with the neighbors to help guide them through the process.

'We have really gone beyond what we normally do to help a neighborhood,' said Jordan.

Though some have suggested that Lake Oswego should move the plant to its own city, even West Linn's plant is not within its boundaries - it's in Oregon City.

LOT plans on submitting its conditional land use application to West Linn in January. The West Linn City Council has requested that representatives from LOT come to a council meeting to discuss their plans. No such meeting has been set as of press time.

For more information about the LOT water plant expansion, visit www.loti