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Clackamas board proceeds with land study


Majority says Stafford urban-reserve status awaits look at three areas.

Clackamas County commissioners will proceed with a study they hope will keep alive the possibility of more land open for development in the future.

A majority of the commissioners made it clear Tuesday (Feb. 23) they will not join the Metro Council to designate the Stafford area as an urban reserve for future development until the study is completed sometime in 2017.

The 3-1 vote was the commissioners’ response to a Feb. 4 decision by the Metro Council to reaffirm the 6,230 acres bounded by Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn as an urban reserve, which designates the area for potential development within the next 50 years.

Under a 2007 law, Clackamas County also has to agree on the Stafford designation, which the Oregon Court of Appeals returned in 2014 for a more detailed legal justification.

“Metro says it’s blessed and ready to go. That’s fine,” Chairman John Ludlow said. “But they can’t do anything without us — and I kind of like that. So they are going to have to wait until we do our process.

“I do not know if we are willing to take any other action, really, except going forward to do what we said we were going to do.”

Last fall, a majority of the commissioners said they want to study three other areas — all now designated as rural reserves that would exclude development — for “undesignated” status. They are:

• South of the Willamette River, 630 acres bound by Miley Road to the north, Arndt Road to the south, Boones Ferry Road to the west and Airport Road to the east. The area includes the Langdon Farms Golf Club. But residents of French Prairie have strongly opposed any change in the rural-reserve designation, as has the city of Wilsonville, whose officials have argued that extension of city roads and utility lines across the Willamette would be too costly.

• About 400 acres east of Canby.

• South of the Clackamas River, 425 acres southeast of Carver off Springwater Road.

Scaled-down study

The original study would have included about 3,400 acres in the Boring-Damascus area now designated as urban reserves. But the cost of the broader study was estimated at $400,000 to $500,000, mainly because of the more complex standards involved in an urban-reserve designation. A majority of the commissioners decided to scale it down to bring its cost to around $100,000.

Among those voting for the reduced-scope study was Commissioner Jim Bernard, the lone member who has argued that the county should simply proceed to reaffirm Stafford without an additional half-million-dollar study.

“I’ve been using this as an argument against you, John, and you are ruining it,” said Bernard, who is running against Ludlow for chairman in the May 17 primary.

But Bernard added there may be value in a scaled-down study.

“I guess the goal of this study is to show the region that we need (land for) employment,” he said. “I think we have studied that already. But if this is to confirm that — and I hope to supply greater support for our argument — then it may be worthwhile to spend the $100,000, even though I think we should not do that.”

The lone dissenter was Commissioner Paul Savas, who said that a re-evaluation of the Boring-Damascus urban reserves is likely if Damascus voters decide May 17 to disband their city. Such an action would leave few options for extension of urban services to currently designated urban reserves.

Savas also is running against Ludlow for chairman.

Commissioner Martha Schrader was at a National Association of Counties meeting in Washington, D.C., and did not vote.

The Metro Council decided last year against any expansion of Portland’s urban growth boundary until at least 2018, so there is no imminent action to include any urban reserves within it.

Ludlow said he doubts the three cities surrounding Stafford — Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn — will extend roads and utility lines into an area that has a lot of hilly terrain.

“The chances of this area ever being developed are minuscule,” he said. “They (reserves) are something we can hold onto for the future. Unfortunately, we are fighting an uphill battle of getting anything changed with Metro.”

But Ludlow acknowledged that Metro has veto power, even if county commissioners proceed after their scaled-down study to remove a rural-reserve designation from any of the three other areas and leave it without a designation.

“We should be able to designate (areas) as undesignated, but this involves Metro,” he said. “Metro gets to say that if we do all this work, they get to say whatever they want — including thanks, but they are not going to do it.”

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