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Candidates agree on Stafford hamlet plan

But some say area's future involves more than just Clackamas County.


TRIBUNE PHOTO: PETER WONG - Candidates for Clackamas County commission positions outlined their positions on the Stafford hamlet issue during an April 23 forum.Though candidates for Clackamas County commissioner praised a community plan for Stafford — an area awaiting a regional designation for future development — some say the plan may have to change as neighboring cities and the Metro Council have their say.

The candidates made their comments Saturday, April 23, at a forum sponsored by the hamlets of Stafford, Mulino and Beavercreek. The forum was at Athey Creek Middle School in Stafford’s Borland section, an area bisected by Interstate 205 and the area most likely to be developed first.

In the races for chairman (Position 1) and Positions 3 and 4, the top two finishers go to a runoff Nov. 8 if no candidate wins a majority of the ballots cast in the May 17 primary. Ballots go out in the mail starting April 29.

Stafford is the unincorporated area bounded by Tualatin, West Linn and Lake Oswego — and it has been the focus of a long-running controversy over its future.

Following a 2014 ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals, the Metro Council last December reaffirmed a decision to designate 6,230 acres in Stafford as an urban reserve that would be open to development in the next 50 years.

But a majority of Clackamas County commissioners, led by two new board members elected in 2012, say they will follow suit on Stafford only after the county completes a study of adding rural land for potential industrial development.

The Stafford hamlet plan, which covers about two-thirds of the proposed urban reserve, calls for focused development of the 520-acre Borland area divided by I-205. It envisions development on the model of Kruse Woods, which combines corporate office parks and restaurants, in Lake Oswego.

Of the other 3,370 acres — much of that land hilly terrain now zoned for farm or rural residential uses — the plan calls for minimum-lot sizes of 5 and 10 acres that would preserve open space but allow just 159 homes.

The plan is scheduled to come before the current county board in May.

During the Metro Council hearings last fall, representatives of Tualatin, West Linn and Lake Oswego opposed Stafford’s designation as an urban reserve. The council rejected an argument put forth by a lawyer for Tualatin and West Linn that Metro had to specify in its findings how to pay for extensions of streets and water and sewer lines to make development possible.

Position 4 views

“It’s hard for a government like us to go to Metro when Metro says we do not have to negotiate because we will win in court,” said Commissioner Tootie Smith, who is seeking a second term in Position 4. “We say we are already in court and ask what we can do to resolve this and go forward.”

Smith said the county and Metro could cooperate to arrange for the extension of roads, water and sewer lines necessary for development.

“Not everybody gets all they want, so that (plan) is a good compromise,” Smith said.

Bill King, Sandy mayor and one of Smith’s two opponents for Position 4, echoed her comments.

“Developers do not put in all that infrastructure that people seem to think,” King said. “But I think you are off to a great start with this Stafford compromise and I am excited about seeing something happen.”

Ken Humberston of Oregon City, Smith’s other opponent, said the plan is “an excellent start in the right direction” but offered a differing view.

“I doubt the county is interested in getting into the provision of more urbanized services,” he said. “If this area were to develop, it’s going to develop only when cities do annexations.”

Position 3 views

Commissioner Martha Schrader of Canby, during her initial tenure on the county board from 2003 to 2009, helped shape the system of hamlets and villages with a role in county planning.

“Based on that work, you now have a group of people who have worked diligently on a plan of how they want their area to grow,” said Schrader, who is seeking a second term in Position 3.

“But the long-term view is that we will not as a county be urbanizing an unincorporated area. It is going to have to be under the umbrella of a city.”

Schrader’s two opponents expressed unconditional support for the plan.

Steve Bates of Boring: “It’s not perfect, but nothing government does is perfect…. It’s the people who own property and live here who are the ones who should have the say in what goes on, and I believe the Stafford compromise says that.”

Jenifer Valley of Happy Valley: “It’s reasonable, it’s well thought out, and it comes from the community.”

Chairman views

Chairman John Ludlow of Wilsonville, who is seeking a second term in Position 1, said he will support the Stafford plan.

He also defended the opposition of a board majority last summer to a quick reaffirmation of Stafford’s designation as an urban reserve.

“Metro has said we do not care what you think because we will survive you in court,” he said. “That is what negotiating with Metro is like… That is not a negotiating attitude that I want to take part in.”

The two sitting commissioners challenging Ludlow had differing views.

Though Commissioner Paul Savas of Oak Grove said he hopes the vision of the Stafford plan can be realized with open-space zoning, “I do believe we have to realize the importance of the cities — and the cities have to support the same vision.”

Savas said if Metro insists that all of Stafford be considered as an urban reserve, its development will be more intensive than proposed in the Stafford plan.

“Should it come in partially or fully as an urban reserve, it needs to be something that the cities can agree upon — and the community agrees upon,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Bernard of Canby said that while the plan is a good start, “it does not matter because Metro is not even going to let us talk about it. The reason is not that they don't see an opportunity here. It’s that they do not see the current county commission interested in actually sitting down and negotiating.”

Bernard was the lone dissenter on last summer’s vote. He has favored a quick reaffirmation of Stafford as an urban reserve. He also said that if the county withdrew its proposed study of potential development south of the Willamette River — development opposed by Wilsonville and by residents by the French Prairie area south of the river — “there is an opportunity to work with Metro to resolve this issue.”

The fourth candidate for chairman is Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay, who did not attend the forum.

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