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New Clackamas board chair: Resolve dispute soon over regional urban growth boundary

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Bernard sets public timetable as he and newly elected county officials take their oaths in ceremony.


PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: PETER WONG - New Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard took the oath of office Jan. 9 from Circuit Judge Deanne Darling in ceremony at Public Services Building in Oregon City.
New Chairman Jim Bernard says he wants to move within the next three months to resolve the years-long dispute between Clackamas County and Metro over the regional urban growth boundary.

Bernard spoke Monday night (Jan. 9) after he took his formal oath as chairman of the county commissioners for the next four years.

Also taking office were Commissioner Martha Schrader for a second term in Position 3 — she also served on the board from 2003 to 2009 — and new Commissioner Ken Humberston in Position 4. Along with Commissioner Paul Savas, they will have to appoint someone for the two years remaining in Bernard's Position 5.

Circuit Judge Deanne Darling also administered oaths to Assessor Bob Vroman, who starts a third four-year term — he was appointed in 2007 — and Justice of the Peace Karen Brisbin, who was elected to a second six-year term.

Absent were Sheriff Craig Roberts, now starting his fourth term, and District Attorney John Foote, now in his fifth term.

All the terms actually started Jan. 3, the first business day of the new year.

Although Bernard pledged action during his successful campaign to unseat John Ludlow, an outspoken critic of Metro, this was his first public statement of a timetable to resolve the future of Stafford. The unincorporated area of more than 6,000 acres sits between Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn.

"I intend to work with our partner cities and Metro to resolve this issue in the next 100 days," Bernard said to hundreds gathered for the ceremony at the Public Services Building in Oregon City.

"This will require rebuilding trust with three of our cities, a hamlet and Metro and letting them known that Clackamas County will work with them to arrive at an agreement that will give them control of the future of Stafford.

"If this is not resolved, other cities such as Wilsonville will pay the price of continued delay in providing adequate housing and employment lands."

First step set

Bernard said on Tuesday (Jan. 10) that commissioners will have a full-scale public discussion on Jan. 17. The discussion was prompted by a letter from Metro that the board reviewed in an earlier closed session allowed to discuss legal matters.

The three cities have resisted extension of streets and other public works into the area, much of which is hilly terrain. The Metro Council, however, acted a year ago to reaffirm Stafford as an urban reserve open to development in 50 years.

Ludlow and then-Commissioner Tootie Smith had advocated consideration of an area south of Wilsonville, plus two other areas outside the current urban growth boundary, for potential future development. The area south of Wilsonville is in an area designated for rural reserve, off-limits to urban development for 50 years.

But Bernard's election as chairman apparently removes them from the table.

"It is our responsibility to protect and enhance these (natural) resources where possible," he said.

Bernard said in his swearing-in remarks he would prefer efforts to redevelop areas already zoned for business and industrial uses, such as the McLoughlin Boulevard corridor from Milwaukie south to Oregon City, 82nd Avenue, and Highway 212 between Clackamas and Damascus.

Other priorities

Among the other county priorities Bernard outlined in his remarks:

• New money for maintenance of the 1,400 paved miles of county roads, for which there is a $17 million annual gap between available funds and projected needs. In the May 17 primary, 68 percent said the county should pursue voter-approved funding, but on Nov. 8, 62 percent said a proposed 5-cent gasoline tax was not it.

"It is our responsibility to future generations to look at all opportunities."

• Proceeds from a new 3-percent tax on retail sales of marijuana for recreational use, which voters approved Nov. 8, are "unlikely" to cover anticipated expenses of county zoning and legal enforcement.

• Regional and state aid for major transportation projects, such as the widening of 5.9 miles of Interstate 205 between Stafford Road and the George Abernethy Bridge to three lanes in each direction; a new phase of the Sunrise Corridor, the first phase of which opened in 2016, and funding for public transit, bicycle and pedestrian alternatives.

Bernard's remarks began on a lighter note.

He said he started his day Jan. 9 helping a veterinarian wrestle a 2,000-pound cow in the mud to administer a shot.

"That was a lot of fun," he said. "So this evening is an end to a great day."

Bernard, 62, was mayor of Milwaukie for eight years before his election as a commissioner in 2008. He is the third-generation owner of Bernard's Garage, which he acquired from his father, Joe, also a mayor of Milwaukie in the 1960s. The garage has been in business since 1925.

Bernard and his wife, Danielle, now live outside Canby. He praised her forbearance for their years together.

"Feeding the cows, chickens and dogs on a rainy night after a hard day of work is not always the first thing you want to do when you get home," he said.

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