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Metro Council moves ahead with Stafford reserve plan

Approval would open 6,230 acres east of Tualatin to future development

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Stafford area between Lake Oswego, West Linn and Tualatin is a mix of rural farms and large lot houses, along with pockets of more densely built residential areas.The Metro Council is poised to reaffirm next week its 2011 decision to designate Stafford for future development.

The seven-member council approved a first reading of an ordinance Jan. 14 that adds 17 pages of legal findings to support its earlier designation for Stafford as an urban reserve. Final adoption is scheduled for next Thursday, Feb. 4.

The move would classify 6,230 acres between Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn as urban reserves, making those lands open to development in the next 50 years.

Unlike two previous public hearings conducted by Metro last year, comment was minimal at the Jan. 14 hearing.

Carol Chesarek of Portland said she thinks it’s time for the council to resolve the dispute.

“I have been involved in the reserves process before there was a reserves process” that state lawmakers set up for the Portland area in 2007, she said.

“I am pleased to see there is continued forward motion," Chesarek added. "What came before this process was not working.”

The findings are required under a February 2014 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals, which returned the issue of urban and rural reserves to the state Land Conservation and Development Commission, Metro and three counties for additional evidence to justify specific areas.

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has signaled it will not act on its own to designate Stafford as an urban reserve until the county completes consideration of other lands for potential development. The commissioners have yet to decide on the scope and cost of the study, which is projected to extend into next year.

Stafford constitutes about one-quarter of the 28,256 acres that Metro has designated in the region as urban reserves and open for development through 2060.

The cities of Tualatin and West Linn were among the 22 entities and individuals that went to the Court of Appeals to overturn the 2011 decision on urban and rural reserves by Metro and the counties. They have continued to argue that Metro must show financing for the extension of road networks and other public improvements necessary for development of Stafford, which includes steep terrain and floodplains.

Sherilyn Lombos, Tualatin's city manager, told The Times recently that Tualatin is especially concerned about transportation. The city is already frequently clogged with traffic, hosting the junction of Interstates 5 and 205 as well as thoroughfares such as Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood and Boones Ferry roads.

“The transportation system doesn’t work right now without development, and so we’re concerned that with development, it’s going to even be worse,” Lombos said, adding, “That’s a significant amount of space that could have a lot of development, a lot of people or a lot of jobs, and you’ve got to solve that transportation problem before you dump more people onto it.”

Jeff Condit, a Portland lawyer who represents the cities, requested more time to submit materials to rebut Metro’s findings. Metro’s latest draft findings say that question is better answered when the largely undeveloped Stafford area is considered for inclusion in the Portland regional urban growth boundary.

The council decided last year against any expansion of that boundary, but councilors have suggested the issue could be reopened in 2018.

Mark Miller contributed to this report.