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Feb. 4 likely for adoption of urban reserve; county, cities still disagree.

The Metro Council moved one step closer Thursday toward reaffirming its 2011 decision to designate Stafford for future development.

The seven-member council gave first reading to an ordinance that adds 17 pages of legal findings to support its earlier designation of 6,230 acres bordering Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn as urban reserves. Such lands could be open to development in the next 50 years.

Adoption is scheduled for Feb. 4, after the public record closes at 5 p.m. Jan. 22.

Unlike two previous public hearings conducted by Metro last year, comment was minimal at Thursday’s hearing.

Carol Chesarek of Portland says it’s time for the council to resolve the dispute.

“I have been involved in the reserves process before there was a reserves process” that state lawmakers set up for the Portland area in 2007, she said. “I am pleased to see there is continued forward motion. What came before this process was not working.”

The findings are required under a February 2014 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals, which returned the issue of urban and rural reserves to the state Land Conservation and Development Commission, Metro and three counties for additional evidence to justify specific areas.

Since then, Oregon lawmakers intervened to settle Washington County’s reserves, and Multnomah County commissioners are engaged in a separate process to resolve legal findings for a single rural-reserve designation.

But Stafford remains a sticking point between Metro, Clackamas County and several cities.

Clackamas County, whose board expanded from three to five commissioners in 2012, says it will not act on its own to designate Stafford as an urban reserve until the county completes consideration of other lands for potential development. The commissioners have yet to decide on the scope and cost of the study, which is projected to extend into 2017.

Stafford constitutes about a quarter of the 28,256 acres that Metro has designated in the region as urban reserves and open for development through 2060.

The cities of Tualatin and West Linn were among the 22 individuals and agencies that went to the Court of Appeals to overturn the 2011 decision on urban and rural reserves by Metro and the counties.

They have continued to argue that Metro must show financing for the extension of road networks and other public improvements necessary for development of Stafford, which includes steep terrain and floodplains.

Jeff Condit, a Portland lawyer who represents those cities, requested more time to submit materials to rebut Metro’s findings.

Metro’s latest draft findings say that question is better answered when the largely undeveloped Stafford area is considered for inclusion in Portland’s regional urban growth boundary.

The council decided last year against any expansion of that boundary, but says the issue could be reopened in 2018, ahead of the usual cycle in 2021.

“The Metro Council’s disagrees with the cities’ position that in order to be designated as an urban reserve, funding sources must be identified for all future infrastructure needs and improvements necessary for the urbanization of Stafford,” the document says.

It concludes: “Stafford is one of the most obvious candidates for an urban reserve designation in the entire region.”

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