Planning Commission will decide May 16

The West Linn Planning Commission is slated to vote May 16 on whether or not to approve the expansion of the Lake Oswego water treatment plant, which is located inside of West Linn.

After hearing more than seven hours of public testimony the last two weeks, the planning commission continued once again its hearing to approve a conditional use permit during its May 2 meeting.

At the May 2 meeting, commissioners asked questions of city staff and heard a rebuttal from Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) representatives.

"While there is passionate, heartfelt testimony that we heard, none of that testimony really rebutted those conclusions that staff has made concerning the CUP approval criteria," said William Kabeiseman of Garvey, Shubert and Baer, an outside council representing LOT.

Of the list of conditions West Linn staff had concerning approval of the permit, LOT representatives objected to one - a condition stating the plant must match submitted drawings. LOT wants flexibility to change the design if it has the opportunity to reduce the footprint of the facility.

After listening to LOT's rebuttal, the commissioners had many questions.

In the proposed plan, the plant could supply water to 925 acres in the Stafford Hamlet if it is developed. As West Linn has taken a stance against bringing Stafford into the urban growth boundary, Commissioner Robert Martin asked how the city could even consider the proposal.

Joel Komarek, LOT program director, assured the commissioners that 'we have no plans to send a drop of water over there.' He said Lake Oswego is trying to plan 50 years into the future.

Commissioners also asked about depreciation of the value of homes surrounding the plant, odds of future expansion and water rights.

Commissioner Russell Axelrod expressed disappointment that no other real studies were conducted to relocate the plant.

'It doesn't appear as a benefit,' he said. 'Does Lake Oswego have other options if it doesn't build in West Linn?'

'I suppose if money were no object and we wanted to start over from scratch like we did in 1967 when we first built the plant - that's what we'd be looking at,' Komarek said. 'Basically we'd be starting over. That doesn't fit our timeline for needing to replace our outmoded, obsolete, vulnerable facilities.'

West Linn residents have continually expressed concern about the plant expansion and pipeline installation. Residents testifying against the expansion cited concerns about years of disruption, reduced property values, noise, light, construction traffic, risk of flooding and burst pipes, chemicals and the appropriateness of the site.

One of the criteria for the conditional use permit is to provide a benefit to West Linn. The emergency water intertie has been listed as the main benefit. However, West Linn and Lake Oswego already have an intertie agreement, which would need to be renewed if the project is approved.

Lake Oswego officials say that, with the current water supply, the city cannot guarantee extra water in an emergency during peak water use seasons.

With the expansion, LOT officials said about 6 million gallons of daily emergency water will continue to be available for West Linn into 2021 during peak times and through 2041 in non-peak times.

'The project also benefits the community at large by increasing supply reliability, treatment reliability and operational reliability,' Kabeiseman said.

Many residents said the benefit of the intertie is not proportionate to the scale of disruption the project might cause.

Jane Heisler, LOT communications director, told the commissioners Lake Oswego has worked with West Linn residents, agreeing to many of the items neighbors requested.

'I think we were very responsive,' Heisler said. 'We made a commitment to not only the immediate neighbors, but to the neighborhood association from the beginning.'

The planning commission closed the public hearing at its May 2 meeting, leaving the record open until May 9 for written testimony. LOT will then have another seven days for rebuttal.

The Planning Commission will meet Wednesday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. at city hall, located at 22500 Salamo Road.

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