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Metro Majority pulls bait and switch in Cornelius

Let's see if we have this right. Last year, the Metro Council extended an invitation to Cornelius officials to submit a request for more industrial land.Technically, the councilors noted, such a request should be part of the larger, regional discussion about the Urban Growth Boundary that happens every five years.

But because that timetable got delayed, the councilors -- in a unanimous vote -- graciously agreed to let Cornelius make its request early.

Turns out they were just teasing.

Last Thursday, in a 4-2 vote, the Metro Council, which has the final say in most regional land-use issues, denied Cornelius' request to expand its boundary to bring 161 acres of industrial land inside the city limits.

The four councilors who nixed the request didn't dispute that Cornelius needs the land. They didn't try to argue that the prospect of watching the city's largest private employer pack up and leave wouldn't be a devastating blow to the region's poorest city. They didn't deny that an independent hearings officer, who they hired, sided with Cornelius on March 3.

No, they said, the problem, was the timing.

Sure, Cornelius needs more industrial land. But, the Metro Majority said, it's not such a dire or unexpected situation that it warrants moving the UGB this year. The city needs to wait a couple years until the next big UGB review, then it can try again.

The council, in effect, asked Cornelius to the ball and then refused to dance.

According to the Metro Majority, if the council let Cornelius get more land now, every mayor and assistant city planner from Forest Grove to Fairview will be parading through Metro with their own sob stories.

We concede that there's a shred of logic to that argument, but if the members of the Metro Majority felt all UGB requests should be considered at the same time, they should have said so from the get go.

Instead the council let Cornelius apply for an exemption and hired a hearings officer to make a ruling it then ignored. It wasted a lot of public time, money and good will on what now looks like a classic bait-and-switch in Cornelius.

Last week's vote (which was opposed by Councilors Kathryn Harrington and Carlotta Collette) will add to the growing sentiment in western Washington County that Metro is out of touch with the needs of local officials and the residents they represent.

It will fuel resentment among taxpayers at this end of the Metro region, who recall the time the agency produced a Metro map that ended in Hillsboro.

Harrington, whose district includes Washington County, is left to clean up her colleagues' mess. And it's a doozy. Last week's ambush has officials in Cornelius and Forest Grove making noise about trying to secede from Metro. We're not ready to endorse that drastic action yet, but we do call on the rest of the Metro Council to help Harrington make up for their mistake and find a way to meet the specific land-use needs of local governments in a timely fashion.

Harrington, who will meet with the Cornelius City Council on Monday, may be the hardest working politician in the area, but there's only so many fences one woman can mend by herself. Especially when she's got a knife in her back.