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County just says no to Sandy plan for buffer zone

The Clackamas County Commission last week voted unanimously to effectively take away the hammer the city of Sandy had held over the Boring community for years.

Twice (in 1998 and 2011) Sandy garnered support from Metro and Clackamas County to require a 50-foot-deep visual buffer of tall trees on the south side of Highway 26 in the Boring area. The idea was to shield development from the view of passing drivers.

But recently, people in the Boring area have spoken loudly through the area’s Community Planning Organization (CPO).

The commission heard the issue at a meeting last Thursday and decided to withdraw from the agreement with Sandy and Metro, effectively killing it.

After the meeting, Sandy Mayor Bill King said he was disappointed with the commission’s action.

“I believe they acted in error,” he said. “(Their knowledge) of what the agreement meant to everyone was based on misinformation.”

Boring CPO Chairman Steve Bates reminded the commissioners they have been in violation of state law since they moved ahead with an agreement that affected people who weren’t notified of the pact.

He also emphasized the literal meaning of the way the agreement was written.

“It is believed by many that these agreements (1998 and 2011) reassign the constitutional rights of your constituents to other jurisdictions without due representation,” Bates told the three commissioners present: John Ludlow, Martha Schrader and Tootie Smith.

When Bates mentioned that the 2011 agreement was formed without notifying anyone from Boring, Schrader reacted by blaming the county for not getting involved in that notification.

“But the piece of involvement should have come from the county, quite frankly, because we are your commissioners,” she said. “I don’t know what happened because I wasn’t here (she recently took office), but it is the commission’s job to work with other entities to ensure that you get full representation.”

Answering a question from Schrader, Bates said, “The (main) issue is property rights.”

“We have nothing against a green corridor,” Bates said. “We have everything against taking property from people without paying them for it.”

Commissioner Smith agreed with Bates on the property rights issue, speaking against what she said would definitely be the taking of private property by government, if the agreement becomes active.

But King spoke after the meeting, saying that false information affected the way the commissioners acted.

“Nobody is taking anything from anybody,” King said. “Nobody has to plant trees in front of their property until development comes through. It’s not going to stop a farmer from putting up a barn or keep anyone from staying in their house.”

King says the agreement was meant to be effective in the future — not now.

“All the people who would be affected (about 20 properties),” he said, “would end up selling to a developer down the line, and the developer would be the one required to plant trees. That’s a common condition of development.”

Sandy City Attorney David Doughman suggested there have been misunderstandings, and he contradicted Bates’ literal interpretation of the affected area.

Doughman said the agreement applies only to a short section of Highway 26 extending westerly from Highway 212 part of the distance to Gresham, and only on the south side of the highway.

Doughman encouraged the commissioners to slow down and allow negotiation to occur between the parties before taking action. He asked formally that the hearing be continued, but Chairman Ludlow did not respond to that request.

Bob Skipper, who has lived in the Sandy area for 68 years, agreed with Smith, saying, “It’s a fairness issue.”

“I believe I have the pulse of the community, having lived there that long,” Skipper said, “and they feel like it is being jammed down their throats — and that is not the way government should operate.”

Commissioner Smith said government should not take property without payment. In this case, she said it looks like government is imposing its view of what it thinks the world should look like.

Chairman Ludlow said he is a real estate broker and knowledgeable about property rights.

“These people were not (notified they were about to lose some rights to their property),” he said, “and that is just flat wrong.”

Schrader said she wants to hold a meeting of the minds between the Boring CPO and the city of Sandy.

“I still think we can work through these issues,” she said.

When withdrawing from the 1998 agreement came to a vote, it was a unanimous 3-0 tally, with two absent.

Another 3-0 vote set the 2011 agreement aside, but since 60 days’ notice is required, the motion was to “initiate a plan to terminate the 2011 agreement.”




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