Clackamas County Commission takes its internal debates to forum
All five of Clackamas Countys elected officials will appear on the May ballot, either running for re-election or in an internal attempt to unseat County Board Chairman John Ludlow, which made for an interesting dynamic as they addressed questions at the North Clackamas Chambers forum last Wednesday.
When Chamber CEO Laura Edmonds introduced Miles Fiberglass president Lori Luchak-Olund as the new moderator of the annual Business in the County forums, Luchak-Olund joked, It looks like were playing Family Feud.
Starting it out with a softball question, Luchak-Olund asked how county commissioners plan to end the current impasse in local wastewater issues, where they have found consensus in their fight against a political rebellion by the Tri-City Service District. Ludlow and other commissioners argued that the capacity needs of the sewer systems should be separated from independent governance issues being advocated by TCSDs three member cities: Oregon City, Gladstone and West Linn.
They accused us of mismanagement, but Oregon City has four different moratoriums of their own, Ludlow said, arguing that sewer systems need to have the capacity to be able to welcome new business. Its not just about new; its about fixing whats there.
Commissioner Paul Savas and former Milwaukie mayor Jeremy Ferguson recently negotiated a 25-year intergovernmental agreement after a five-year dispute between the city and county. Savas feared that a similarly long battle lies ahead between the county and Tri-Citys member cities.
Its all about producing the lowest rate possible, Savas said. But unfortunately politics enters a lot of decisions.
On Dec. 10, the regional wastewater committee will have its last meeting of the year, when Savas sees an urgent need to find some consensus.
I dont see a lot of fame or fortune in controlling a local wastewater district, Savas said.
Ludlow argued that the fact that all three cities have interim managers has led to a steep learning curve for county officials to get city leaders in the loop on sewer issues.
Sooner or later we are going to have to agree on the facts, Ludlow said. The last thing that this county needs is that M-word called moratorium.
Enough sites for development?
The next question about a perceived local shortage of lands for job creation struck a nerve among commissioners, who are divided on the regional governments position that the Portland metropolitan area currently has enough developable sites.
Recommendations recently issued by Martha Bennett, chief operating officer of Metro, calls for no further expansion of the urban growth boundary at this time. The report sparked controversy among Clackamas County and Washington County officials who are looking for more industrial and employment lands.
The majority of the county commission, including Ludlow, recommended that Commissioner Martha Schrader vote against the report as the countys representative to the Metro Policy Advisory Committee. She decided to vote in its favor, after an amendment to the report passed addressing some of Clackamas Countys concerns. She resigned from her position as Clackamas Countys representative to Metro after Ludlow expressed his dismay at her vote.
Metro President Tom Hughes donated $1,000 to Schraders re-election campaign on Aug. 13, just three weeks before her vote. Schrader is being challenged by Steve Bates, a former chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization. While Bates accuses her of Metro over the trust of her colleagues, Schrader has explained that she needed to tailor her vote to changing circumstances.
Schrader acknowledged that Clackamas County has a shortage of employment land. However, she said the county has a great economic development team to help developers find shovel-ready sites. The team also identifies future land-use needs and what rules might need to change to accommodate new development.
I do think this county will be successful, Schrader said.
Standing with Schrader on the issue, Commissioner Jim Bernard said if we keep creeping out into our valuable farmland, it would be at the cost of ignoring available land thats underdeveloped and well-served by public transportation and other transportation infrastructure.
McLoughlin Boulevard is an opportunity that is not unlike Kruse Way, Bernard said.
There are no 50 or 100-acre sites on McLoughlin, Savas retorted, although he agreed that there were some good opportunities on the thoroughfare.
None of us can even imagine, Bernard argued, what the future of business needs will be, so he called into question county commissioners who argued that the county needed flat contiguous sections of land for development.
Are we planning for the future or are we just looking at the status quo? Ludlow asked.
Eagle Landing project
County commissioners expressed fears that the Eagle Landing project would not be going forward, but they declined to elaborate on the reasons that the developer might be getting cold feet.
$10 million is a lot of money, but in the scheme of things of 100 million square feet, its chump change, Ludlow said of the countys potential contribution to the project. I got a real problem, Ludlow said, with traffic and density at the site of what he called a corporate giveaway.
When Ludlow added that the county needed to look at other ways to help working people and create jobs, Bernard joked, You sound like a liberal there, John.
Savas, Schrader, and Commissioner Tootie Smith took issue with Ludlows giveaway interpretation. Savas called the project a great deal for Clackamas County, and Schrader pointed out that the deal would not go through if the project doesnt work out. Schrader said that the countys offer to forgive certain project fees if the project moves forward gained the support of the nearby city.
Our partners in Happy Valley were very, very interested in seeing a deal like this unfold, she said.
Well end on a high note, Luchak-Olund said. What is the county planning to do regarding marijuana and land use?
Since industrial areas are in short supply in Clackamas County, Why would we sacrifice that to this industry? Savas said.
We have varying opinions as to whether marijuana should be in industrial areas, Bernard said. Were trying to be careful to preserve Clackamas County the way it is.
Recreational use of marijuana should not be a crime, Savas said was the primary goal of local voters. However, he added, Growing pot not done properly creates problems that the commission is working to avoid.
Clackamas County Planning Commission hearings on marijuana are scheduled in the coming month.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT