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Is Highway 26 green corridor invalid (or illegal)?

Boring's CPO chairman says contract between Metro, city of Sandy and Clackamas County violates state law

A wave of discontent in Boring continues to swell as more facts come to the surface in a probe conducted by Steve Bates, chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization.

An agreement between Clackamas County, the city of Sandy and Metro is the issue, according to Bates, who says the pact takes away property rights of Boring landowners and causes them an undue financial burden.

The three-way agreement would require developers and landowners in the Boring area alongside Highway 26 to buffer future development with a grouping of trees 50 feet deep, essentially hiding the development and creating what Sandy officials call a 'green corridor.'

All because the city of Sandy wants to control the growth of Boring, Bates says.

'There's no factual basis for that at all,' said Sandy City Manager Scott Lazenby. 'The unincorporated area is not in our urban growth boundary, so what they do out there is their business.'

Lazenby and county Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan both said the effect of this covenant is 'off in the future,' after the area becomes part of a city.

'It's so far in the future that I don't think any of us should spend any time worrying about it,' Lazenby said.

'These things will be decided down the road,' Lehan said, 'when there's a city to deal with. Chances are nothing will happen there until Boring incorporates. It's probably 30 to 40 years out.'

But no one can guess with any certainty what city that might be: Boring, Damascus, Happy Valley, Gresham or Sandy.

When that area becomes a city, Metro can choose to allow the urban reserve area to develop. The rest of the land between Multnomah County and Sandy is designated rural reserves, which doesn't allow any development until 2060.

But the area this agreement covers is not well defined. In fact, Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas has that specific concern.

'No one has given me a map of the area that specifically defines where the boundaries of the areas are,' Savas said. 'So I don't know what the impacts might be.

'If the impacts are a 'taking,' I would certainly want to make sure that people have an opportunity to be compensated.'

Savas said he is in the 'information-gathering mode' and would attend the April 3 CPO meeting to hear about expected impacts.

Bates will propose to the Boring CPO at its April 3 meeting that a position statement he has written be sent to the Clackamas County Commission. That statement will challenge commissioners to withdraw from the agreement.

Bates also has invited the Sandy mayor and city manager to come to the June 5 Boring CPO meeting to explain their intentions with this buffer strip.

Bates' calculations, based on the entire distance between the Multnomah County line and Sandy (5.6 miles), show the buffer strip's value at $10 million.

Bates says that 50-foot buffer cannot be used by the landowners, and therefore it is a taking of land, which is not allowed under state law.

While that question might be an issue for attorneys or courts, Bates also accuses the three governments of reaching this contract without notifying either the affected landowners or the Boring CPO - again, a violation of state law.

Bates also doesn't understand why or how the city of Sandy and Metro can reach agreements that place restrictions on land not within their boundaries. Savas seems to agree.

'If we're outside the boundaries of Metro,' Savas said, 'and we're outside the boundaries of Sandy, then what the heck are we doing and why are we doing it?'

Lehan said she had some insight into that issue.

'The city of Sandy,' she said, 'believes it has an interest in buffering itself from Metro. They don't want Metro to creep up on them.'

The recently signed pact is a restatement of an earlier agreement covering the same land for the same purpose. Approved in 1997-1998, that agreement was between Clackamas County, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the city of Sandy.

However, when Sandy city officials noticed Clackamas County and Metro had violated the contract by stretching urban reserves all the way to Highway 26 and allowing Damascus to take part of the rural reserves, Sandy staff asked for a new agreement.

For an unstated reason, ODOT was left out of that new agreement.

Bates points out that both agreements do not have ending dates and the recent covenant does not state it supersedes any previous agreements.

To add to the confusion, the first arrangement states that amendments must be approved by all three parties. If the recent agreement is an amendment to the previous contract - as Metro states in its resolution of approval - then it is invalid because ODOT was not involved.

Bates says he is not against a greenway full of trees. In fact, ODOT has created a greenway with its Highway 26 right-of-way.

Bates suggests, with ODOT's permission, that Boring and Sandy people could join forces and create the desired green corridor.

'Buy some trees,' Bates said in a statement, 'and we can have some tree planting parties with the people of Sandy and Boring and forgo this 'easement' nonsense and government overreach into Boring area property rights and land-use issues.'

Bates sent a note to Sandy Mayor Bill King and Lazenby asking for increased communication between the neighboring communities. Lazenby said he hasn't had time to decide if he will do as Bates asked and speak to the CPO on June 5. King said he had no comment on the issue until he talks with the city attorney.

Communication works both ways, Lazenby said, noting Bates could contact Sandy officials in some way.

'My phone number is in the city website directory,' Lazenby said. 'I never got a call from the guy. There are lots of ways to improve communication.'

The CPO meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, at the Boring Fire Department on Highway 212 in Boring.



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