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Regaining (and maintaining) a rural feel

To keep Highway 26 communities separate, developers must plant a green corridor
by: Jim Hart The appearance of the right (north) side of Highway 26 is the way Sandy officials want the entire stretch of highway to appear on both sides, instead of the sight of industrial businesses or other development as seen on the left (south) side of the highway, near Highway 212 in Boring.

A survey of Highway 26 drivers would likely receive overwhelming support for keeping the rural nature of the land between Gresham and Sandy.

Who would want miles of the type of development seen today near Boring at the interchange for highways 26 and 212?

Everyone knows it is difficult to stop population growth, which requires a proportional increase in residential, commercial and industrial growth.

But …

Not in my back yard.

Not by the time Boring becomes a city.

Not near the city of Sandy.

Not at the gateway to a national recreation area.

Quietly, but in public meetings, an agreement was reached between the city of Sandy, Clackamas County and Metro that will affect the area for at least the next 50 years.

The action, agreed to by all three groups, was quiet because no noticeable effect will be seen anytime soon. But by the end of 2011, the document had received signatures from top officials from each jurisdiction.

The three governing boards decided the highway between the easterly boundary of Metro's urban growth boundary near Gresham and the western boundary of Sandy's urban reserve should always appear rural in nature - no matter what commercial or light industrial growth occurs near the highway.

'This is more guarding the future rather than a current issue,' said Sandy City Manager Scott Lazenby. 'This agreement ended up being a compromise because it allows some urbanization of the area near Boring (south of Highway 26).'

Lazenby said a buffer of evergreen trees needs to be in place before growth occurs, screening the development from view by passing drivers.

The land near Highway 26 and near Boring is considered 'employment land' by Clackamas County, Lazenby said. That could include businesses housed in office buildings or light industrial complexes - but not residential or retail commercial.

But none of that growth will occur until Metro moves its urban growth boundary east to at least Highway 212.

To accomplish the rural feel, contractors will be required to plant what is essentially a green corridor.

There was an agreement to that effect, signed by the three parties a number of years ago, but along came Metro's urban reserves a couple of years ago - making available for development some of the land in question.

Since the agreement had been violated, Lazenby asked for a revised agreement with essentially the same purpose.

But Lazenby says there is another purpose to the revised agreement.

'The main issue is to try to preserve a sense of community,' he said, 'to keep Sandy distinct from Gresham and the Metro area.'

In effect, it's a return to nature. Years before this area developed, the valley was filled with trees - before many were cut down to build homes and clear land for farms.

This agreement, Lazenby said, is just restoring some of the area to its natural habitat.