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Boring challenges county commission

At its April 3 meeting, the Boring Citizen Planning Organization will get an opportunity to challenge the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

For the second time in two weeks, Boring CPO Chairman Steve Bates has challenged the commission's actions.

Last week, acting as a private citizen, Bates wrote an open letter to the commission to complain about lack of transparency in the way the commission designed a questionnaire, allegedly to gain answers that would support and promote the commissioners' agenda.

Bates accused the commission of sending the questionnaire to hand-selected people, who allegedly would give answers the commissioners wanted.

Then on Monday, Bates became incensed after he received a copy of an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Sandy, Clackamas County and Metro.

The IGA places restrictions on people who own land near Highway 26 between its intersection with Highway 212 and the approximate Multnomah County line, a few miles east of Gresham.

That area is generally south of Highway 26; is triangular in shape; and includes the downtown community of Boring. It is part of what Metro is now calling the Clackanomah Urban Reserves. Land on the north side of Highway 26 and most of the land to the east of the Highway 212/Compton Road intersection is considered rural reserves by Metro, and is protected until 2060.

Bates is concerned that the city of Sandy wants to control growth in the Boring area. He's also concerned that the county is taking private land as an easement and requiring land owners to give up use of the land, while they continue to pay property taxes.

And then, he said, they're also required to plant a forest of trees 50 feet wide to hide development from the view of passers-by on Highway 26.

Sandy Planning Director Tracy Brown said the idea behind the IGA is to slow growth and keep a rural separation between Sandy and the metro area.

'The intent was to keep that area (Highway 26 near Boring) from developing into urban development,' Brown said, 'but if it is urban, it will be screened (with trees).'

While Bates admits he's complaining about the 'worst-case scenario,' he intends to follow through with his objections to the county by bringing the facts to the April 3 CPO meeting.

If anyone objects (to the IGA's provisions), Bates says, they can have their land taken away through the process of eminent domain (condemnation).

'This is terrifying,' he said. '(The IGA's text) basically makes this document a condemnation document. They're giving every property owner the ability to voluntarily give (the county) their property for no remuneration.

'In other words, it's 'give us your property; give us the easement; or we're going to take it anyway.' This (IGA) takes all the property owner's rights away.'

But Sandy City Attorney David Doughman, who was at the table when the IGA was written, says putting its provisions into effect is decades away.

After Metro decides to bring the Clackanomah Urban Reserve into the UGB - which Doughman said would be at least 2030 or later - then Metro would initiate a concept planning process which would change the development code to require the buffer with new development.

'Every jurisdiction, in some form or another, has either landscaping or buffer requirements,' Doughman said. 'The idea is to separate (for example) industrial uses from residential uses.

'That separation between Sandy and the metro area has persisted, and we hope that it continues. We'd like to keep the illusion, if nothing else, of that area being forested.'

Brown confirmed that the IGA applies only to the Boring triangle area south of Highway 26. Most of the area to the north and east of there is Rural Reserves, which Metro says won't change for at least 50 years.

Bates doesn't like some of the restrictive language in the IGA, which he thinks would preclude the 17 acres of retail-zoned land at Highway 26 and Compton Road from being sold for continued retail development.

'That site is the perfect size for a Safeway or Walmart,' Bates said, but this (IGA) says it's not to be used for a supermarket.

'This is the thing that bothers me: The city of Sandy is protecting its interests. (Sandy) wants the people of Boring to have to drive to Sandy to go to a supermarket.'

But Brown says the current IGA was written because Metro violated another agreement that had been in effect for 12 years.

'This IGA was an attempt to develop a compromise,' he said, 'to re-establish some of the previous agreement.'

Doughman says any action referred to by this IGA is 'off in the future.'

'The only time the IGA requires anyone to change their development code is in a concept planning process,' he said, 'which wouldn't happen for many years from now. That time is dependent upon when the property is brought into the UGB.'

Also objectionable in the IGA, Bates alleges, is that Metro and the city of Sandy must be notified by Clackamas County of any similar issue 'so they can oppose it.'

'That's the only reason they'd want to be notified,' Bates said, 'so they can oppose it.'

Bates also accuses the city of Sandy, Clackamas County and Metro of dealing with this issue behind closed doors - without notifying the public or seeking opinions.

Doughman says that is essentially true of the negotiations process for the new IGA, but he says it is not true of the process that made the new IGA essential.

That process was under Metro's jurisdiction when the regional government was expanding its urban reserves.

'Metro decided to include property in its urban reserves,' Doughman said, 'and that was in violation of an existing agreement (the 1997 Green Corridor Rural/Reserve Agreement, which was quite similar to the current IGA).'

Because of the violation, Metro agreed to rewrite the agreement and sign it again, with the county and city.

'Nobody lost anything with this new IGA,' Doughman said. 'They only gained. Prior to the IGA, they wouldn't have had any hope of developing their property in an urban setting. They would have been limited to the farm and forest uses that are in Oregon law.'

But Bates points to the ambiguity and loosely-worded document (IGA) to show why he's apprehensive.

'There's no definitive way of knowing which properties are affected,' Bates said. 'They should have done a financial impact statement. They didn't. (The IGA) is loosely worded so they can just have their way with us.

'Whatever way the wind is blowing, the city of Sandy, Clackamas County and Metro can pretty much tell Boring what it can do.'