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Scappoose answers UGB critics in state filing

State land-use agency could decide to allow city's growth proposal next month

In its formal response to land use advocates' objections that Scappoose's ongoing urban growth boundary proposal was based on faulty findings, the city stood behind its plans, saying there is 'substantial evidence' showing a need for growth.

Scappoose City Attorney Jeff Bennett sent the 24-page retort to the state Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) on May 9 as that agency works to determine whether to allow the city to grow its boundaries to include an additional 378 acres, mostly around the Scappoose Industrial Airpark.

City Manager Jon Hanken said a state decision is expected before July, but he anticipates it won't exactly be a green light. Some communities have taken 10 years to get their expansion plans finalized, Hanken said, and while he's confident the proposal will eventually be given the go-ahead, he's not holding his breath for it to happen next month.

'I'm confident we are going to have, when the entire process is over, an expansion of the UGB by the airport,' he said. 'Do I think it will be said and done by the end of June? No.'

Twenty-eight individuals filed objections with the DLCD regarding Scappoose's growth plans. One of those was Mia Nelson from Eugene, representing 1,000 Friends of Oregon, a nonprofit land use and planning advocacy group opposing the city's aspiration.

At the core of 1,000 Friends' 150-page objection is a 20-year employment forecast used by the city as a foundation to base its future land need. The nonprofit land use advocates claim an 'unreasonably high forecast' of 8,068 new jobs during that period 'taints all work built upon it, including the land need analysis and UGB expansion.'

Estimates predict the Scappoose population will grow by around 3,400 over 20 years, which 1,000 Friends of Oregon said makes the claim of 8,068 new jobs implausible.

Scappoose officials altered the city's comprehensive plan based on findings from a 2010 'Economic Opportunities Analysis,' or EOA, funded by two high-profile developers - Ed Freeman and Joe Weston - who would likely profit from the UGB expansion proposal. City officials believe the EOA to be a reasonable prediction of the region's future framework, while critics believe it to be overreaching.

'In the end, the City considered all conflicting evidence regarding economic forecasting and decided to stay with that set forth in the EOA,' Bennett wrote to DLCD. 'The fact that objectors think other conflicting evidence was better than that relied on by the City is immaterial.'

1,000 Friends of Oregon first weighed-in on the city's growth aspirations in January 2011, joining a vocal group of Scappoose residents who shared their concerns at a series of crowded public hearings in 2010. Some of those residents vehemently believed Scappoose should stay the same size - retaining its rural roots - while others merely opposed the EOA-based rationalization.

Scappoose city council passed an ordinance adopting the EOA and its growth plans in April 2011, followed by Columbia County in October. The mandated bureaucratic process to expand a city's boundaries shifted to the DLCD in February when it was delivered nearly 2,500 pages of findings, reports and testimonies on the matter.