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Hamlet planning committee held two town hall meetings to discuss future development

The planning process for the future of the Stafford Hamlet continued Saturday and Monday, as the Stafford planning committee held two town hall meetings.by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Residents of the Stafford Hamlet have been trying to plan how to grow for the last several years. Now, marked as an urban reserve, some feel pressured to finalized that plan.

The meetings, which were held at Stafford Primary School, were designed to allow residents a chance to verify or edit neighborhood maps, voice their own opinions on the community’s future and ask questions of representatives from Clackamas County and Metro.

Stafford residents voted to become a hamlet in 2006, and in the past year they have come together in an effort to plan for future development in the area’s 4,000 acres. The final plan will act as a guide for Clackamas County, surrounding cities and the regional governing body Metro as they consider long-term development and whether or not Stafford is brought into the urban growth boundary.

Yet finding common ground hasn’t been easy, and Molly Ellis, a hamlet board member who is the chairwoman of the planning committee, came away displeased with the tone of the second town hall meeting Monday.

“The first meeting (Saturday) was a good deal more convivial and much more productive,” Ellis said. “It was a less strident tone — I was disappointed with the strident tone (Monday). Because we had an opportunity here to learn more; it’s not often that you get (Metro Deputy Planning Director) John Williams to give up his night and come out to your little community.”

At Monday’s meeting, Williams was joined by Clackamas County Strategic Policy Coordinator Dan Chandler, as well as local attorney Ed Trompke and a number of other representatives from both Metro and the county — including County Commissioners Jim Bernard and Paul Savas. There were about 25 people present.

The meeting began with a presentation outlining the Stafford plan as it currently stands, the ultimate goal being to “create a visual record of the Stafford Hamlet community’s plan for change and a new way we develop.”

Representatives from each of the hamlet’s 10 neighborhoods were then asked to present the findings from surveys and meetings conducted over the past year.

The preferences of the neighborhoods were mixed; where some found that nearly all of their residents were against new development, others were open to additions like a retirement community or equestrian trails.

Speaking in favor of the equestrian trails, Hazelia neighborhood resident Tom Lackman said that this was a time to create a lasting legacy for the hamlet.

“Rather than just wait and let ad hoc development happen that we would not like, we have a chance to create a legacy here that we like to call ‘Stafford Trails,’” Lackman said. “It is an urban planned community with a public equestrian facility as a theme and extensive trails for pedestrians and horse riders that connect us with open spaces and with each other.”

Lackman and his wife, Micheline, who currently own the Oswego Heights private equestrian barn and pasture, said they did not favor development in Stafford but accepted it was inevitable.

“If we can get together and form an unified vision, I think we have a chance to save the character of the area,” Tom Lackman said.

The latter half of the Monday meeting consisted of a question-and-answer session that saw a wide array of concerns raised. One resident asked if the timing of development or inclusion in the urban growth boundary could be stagnated for certain neighborhoods —the answer was yes, according to Williams — while another commented that inclusion in the urban growth boundary didn’t make sense when surrounding cities had not expressed interest in providing services to the Stafford area.

The prevailing message from the county and Metro alike was that the voice of the community would be highly influential on any future development.

“We’re here because we want to listen to you,” Bernard said. “There are a lot of people in this room who want to see something happen. Maybe you don’t ... but the whole area needs to be at the table to say, ‘We don’t want to be part of it,’ and then maybe we could plan for it.

“If you’re at the table, we can plan and preserve what you think is valuable.”

For Ellis, the meeting underscored a sense of unrest that first arose when the Stafford and Borland areas were designated by Metro as “urban reserve” for future development — a decision that was opposed by West Linn and Tualatin and is currently being appealed.

“What you hear is fear,” Ellis said. “People don’t really know what to expect now that we’re in the urban reserve, and they’re afraid. They’re afraid of losing the quality of life that they cherish here.”

Ellis hopes to have a final plan ready for residents to evaluate by December. To expedite the process, she will propose that the Stafford board hire an independent planner with a background in cartography.

To learn more, visit staffordhamlet.com.

Patrick Malee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @Pmalee_WL.

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