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Protecting West Linn

City officials try to protect what the community values without being heavy handed
by: Vern Uyetake, Teal Adams of West Linn walks the paved path alongside Rosemont Road Monday afternoon. This landscaped private property adjacent to homes is dedicated to open space, even though it is zoned residential. A proposed new zone would not allow it and other identified public and private land to be used for any other purpose.

Plans laid over the past nearly seven years are leading West Linn to establish a new land-use zone that it would call open space.

Should this occur, the city's open spaces would be protected from future loss. That includes city parks, which are all built on land zoned residential.

The targeted areas not only include all city parks and other natural areas such as Wilderness Park, but also streambanks on private property, wetlands and land dedicated to greenspace such as alongside Hidden Springs and Rosemont roads. While the city owns much of the land, private property owners also own some.

West Linn Planning Director Bryan Brown told a joint worksession of the city council and planning commission in late June that they should try to avoid a 'heavy hand' when writing regulations that apply to private property.

'This has been a judicious process,' he said, 'to try to figure out methodology where you are protecting the most important resources, with the least impact on private property owners.'

Identifying a variety of resources that the community values is part of a process that is directed to all cities by the state of Oregon, and includes planning how to protect valuable resources.

The land-use consulting firm of Winterbrook in Portland has been working sporadically over the past nearly seven years to assemble information that would satisfy the state's Goal 5 inventory requirement - which attempts to identify seven types of resources that deserve protection from improper use or wanton destruction.

Winterbrook surveyed four of the seven types of resources, according to consultant Tim Brooks, including open space and natural areas as well as riparian and wetland areas.

Local resident Greg Morse, who requested in 1999 that the city council begin its Goal 5 inventory, is frustrated that it has taken so long - and the city is not done yet.

Morse said he has lost some patience with the process that has caused the consultants to work with four city councils under three mayors, two different planning directors and four city managers.

Perhaps some efficiency has been lost in the process, Morse says, and producing plans to protect certain natural resources has cost the city about $300,000.

Streamlining park development

The proposal of open space as a new zone would streamline the process of park development, said consultant Greg Winterowd.

'One of the advantages that we believe the zone has for the city,' he said, 'is that if it's designated as a park on the park plan, then you are allowed to make improvements consistent with that park plan, rather than going through a (lengthy) conditional-use process.'

The conditional-use process would be required if the land is zoned residential, since using the land as a park is not automatically allowed in residential zoning.

Changing to the new open space zone also would simplify planners' work because all open space land in the city would show up as a specific type of zoning (a separate color on a map), Brown said, instead of appearing similar to the adjacent residential land on the map.

The consultants attempted to relate Goal 5 protections for riparian corridors with Metro's water-quality requirements in what Metro calls Title 3 - regulations that all cities in the metro area will have to comply with by 2008.

Brown reminded the council that the city of West Linn is behind in its progress toward meeting Title 3 dictates.

'I believe West Linn and Lake Oswego are the only (metro) towns that haven't complied with the water quality aspects of Title 3,' Brown told those assembled at the worksession.

But City Attorney Tim Ramis said the city could adopt findings supporting its plans, and if anyone (including Metro) disputed the plans it could be defended in front of the Land Conservation and Development Commission.

'What can we get done?'

Mayor Norm King outlined the process to achieve the city's Goal 5 inventory, including adoption of three maps, a new open space zone, new open-space policies and inventories of parks and open spaces, riparian corridors and wetlands resources as well as findings that explain how the action complies with Metro Title 3.

But Council President Scott Burgess and Winterowd both talked about completing only a portion of the entire project, just to show progress.

'I'm just saying,' Burgess said, 'What can we get done?'

King agreed that finishing some of the overall task would be preferable to continuing to work on the entire undertaking.

Councilor Michele Eberle also expressed impatience on the progress of completing Goal 5.

'We've been waiting an awful long time,' she said. 'This council has addressed this since relatively soon after we came into office, and I'd like to see something get completed.'

But Morse is concerned that local residents and some councilors are losing interest in completing the inventory of resources that need protection, noting that more than 30 public meetings have been held over the past six years with a large amount of input from residents.

'Why do you have a public open house?' Morse said. 'The neighborhood associations were sent the maps (of areas suggested for protection) in 2002. And now people are saying: 'Does everybody know about this?'

'If I go to all of these public meetings and I'm told that's important, and then people can't even remember that there have been some public meetings, what does that say? Is it window dressing or is it forgetting?'

Winterowd reminded the city officials that he and his business partner have been working on the city's response to Goal 5 requirements for a number of years, and would like to conclude their efforts with something of value.

'You are actually getting something … that is tangible and that provides clear direction,' he said, 'and makes a statement about this community's commitment to protecting natural areas and its park system.'