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Stafford Hamlet forges ahead in process

The Stafford Hamlet is finding its voice.

In meetings on Saturday and Monday, the hamlet continued the process of forging a plan that will let it be heard by Clackamas County.

The Stafford Hamlet has about 730 households and 2,500 people. The triangular area borders on the southern edge of Lake Oswego, the western edge of West Linn and runs, primarily, along Interstate 205 at the southern border.

The hamlet is a quasi form of self-governance, according to Carol Yamada, a Stafford resident of seven years and spokesperson for the hamlet.

The Stafford Hamlet formed a year ago, and has a 10-member elected board. Board seats last for two years.

The board serves an advisory role to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

'We're coming up with a vision for what we'd like Stafford Hamlet to look like,' said Yamada. 'The hamlet gives cohesion to an unincorporated area.'

In a survey of the Stafford Hamlet done in the spring, a majority of respondents said they moved to the Stafford area for privacy and access to wildlife and open areas. Nearly half said they or their families had been in the area for more than 20 years. More than half commute to Portland for work and the same amount said they believe it is very important for the hamlet to create a conceptual plan.

Also in the survey about half said they are very interested in keeping Stafford semi-agricultural, and two-thirds said they want to keep their property as-is in the next five to 10 years, rather than divide and sell or add more homes.

Yamada said the hamlet residents are beginning a multi-phase process of crafting a 'final vision' for the hamlet. The vision could include priorities for parks and pathways, she said.

Christine Roth, the Clackamas County staff laiason for hamlets, said a hamlet board can bring an array of issues to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners - from transportation to parks and infrastructure.

'They are not going to get real specific, but they will say 'We think it's appropriate for X amount of acres of parks and waterfront access,'' she said. The Stafford Hamlet could say it would like a park along the Tualatin River, or a certain density for residential lots, she said.

The Stafford Hamlet should have its final vision ready by early fall of 2008.

Four of the board seats are up for re-election in December.

The hamlet receives $2,000 a year from the county for administrative expenses. The hamlet's expenses will be augmented by fundraisers, direct donations and grants, Yamada said.

Roth said Clackamas County is the only place in the United States to have hamlets. The hamlet program is 2 ½ years old.

'Hamlets can't levy fees, taxes or assessments of any sort,' she said.

The next town hall meeting for the hamlet will be 10 a.m. on Dec. 8 at Athey Creek Middle School, 2900 S.W. Borland Road.

For more information on the hamlet, go to www.staffordhamlet.org .