Future of projects hinges on Lake Oswego council and resident appeals

by: LORI HALL - The West Linn Chamber of Commerce made a united stance against the water treatment plant and pipeline, sending out letters Feb. 5 opposing the projects. The West Linn City Council disagreed, allowing the projects at its Feb. 11 meeting.In a change of heart for two councilors, the West Linn City Council unanimously approved a water treatment plant expansion and its pipeline during its Monday meeting.

The meeting was the completion of a drawn-out conditional use permit process that began in earnest last spring for the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT).

The West Linn City Council was due to deliberate on the controversial project during its Jan. 28 meeting; however, a statement by the mayor introduced new evidence, causing the city to reopen public testimony and applicant rebuttal. At the time, councilors were hung up on the definition of community and whether or not the projects were a benefit — one of the criteria for approval — and appeared to be headed to a split vote.

This time around, the councilors all agreed the projects were a benefit to the community, including the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard, and tacked on five more conditions of approval to an already lengthy list.

Councilors Mike Jones and Jenni Tan reversed their positions on the projects after voicing intention to vote against approval during the Jan. 28 meeting.

The city council conducted two nights of public hearings Jan. 14 and 15 to collect community comments on the Lake Oswego-Tigard water treatment plant expansion and pipeline proposals.

Back on Nov. 1, the West Linn Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny the two conditional use permits, mainly due to lack of community benefit to West Linn. LOT appealed the decision in December to the city council.

Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant at 4260 Kenthorpe Way in West Linn’s Robinwood neighborhood since 1968. In cooperation with the city of Tigard, Lake Oswego wants to expand the plant and run a new pipeline to address the future water needs of both cities.

The plant, which will hold up to 2 million stored gallons of water underground and handle up to 38 million gallons each day, also serves as an emergency backup water supply for West Linn.

Along with a new plant, the project involves the installation of a 4-foot-diameter pipeline from the Clackamas River through West Linn and into Lake Oswego. The pipeline, which will be broken into four construction phases, will extend 1.9 miles in West Linn, crossing though both residential and commercial areas.

Tan said the additional conditions of approval provided more benefits to the “entire city” and added more mitigation to lessen the burden on the Robinwood neighborhood and businesses along Highway 43.

“The greatest additional benefit is that the emergency intertie for backup water will be permanent. The IGA (intergovernmental agreement) would not expire in 2041, but would continue in perpetuity unless all parties agreed to termination,” Tan said.

Four more new conditions, which were all introduced by Jones, include Lake Oswego giving the old water transmission lines to West Linn after they are abandoned, that the clear water well is never upsized to more than 2 million gallons, that LOT must pay for West Linn’s needed third pump station and its related lines, and that LOT must provide $10,000 for the Robinwood Station community center.

“Tonight we make a very important decision. People in West Linn 40 years from now will be affected by what we do,” Mayor John Kovash said. “West Linn needs to build water infrastructure, and whether we build it all ourselves or whether we partner with LOT, there will be tons of construction to be dealt with.”

Jones said he hadn’t made up his mind which way to vote until just a few hours before the meeting. Because of new conditions and amendments to the permits allowed through the city’s de novo hearing process, he said the application the council was hearing was not the same as the one the planning commission voted on.

“The application here tonight and conditions of approval weren’t given to the planning commission,” Jones said.

Councilor Jody Carson spoke of the benefits of the emergency water intertie and the seismic stability of the new plant.

“We will have a facility that will withstand an 8 or 9 earthquake. I think this is critical. We may all be very thankful if we have an earthquake in our lifetime,” Carson said.

“I have heard many compelling cases that asked for denial of this project. ... No matter how personal, compelling or moving these real situations are, I must consider West Linn as a whole, and do what is best for our entire city for the future,” Tan said.

Upon hearing the councilors’ votes, residents starting getting up and leaving, voicing their disappointment. Resident Robert Stowell got up and said, “What a pile of crap,” before leaving the council chamber.

“You witnessed the most difficult decision this council will ever make and perhaps the most far-reaching,” Kovash said.

After the hearing resident Lamont King said there was an “overwhelming sense of disappointment” from the neighbors.

The council will meet Monday at 9 a.m. to vote on the findings of the applications. From there, it is up to the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard to move on the permits and up to the residents of West Linn to appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. According to City Manager Chris Jordan, anyone with standing can appeal to LUBA within 21 days of the notice of the final order, and LOT has three years to act on the approval.

“We are very happy,” said LOT Communications Director Jane Heisler. “We felt we had a good application that met all the criteria. We think this goes a long way toward solving water issues for all three communities.

“It’s been a difficult process for everyone involved and controversial. We’re not opponents, we’re neighbors. We want to work together, as neighbors.”

West Linn resident Dave Froode is the managing partner of STOP LLC, a registered group of West Linn citizens opposed to the projects. He said Tuesday that his group plans to appeal to LUBA.

“We’re not going away. This is a four-quarter game. This is halftime,” Froode said. “People in Lake Oswego and West Linn do not want this project to occur. The next step of this journey will be LUBA.”

However, the process may not need to go to LUBA. There have been rumblings in Lake Oswego that some of the newest councilors may not support the project as it stands, especially with all of the conditions, including a one-time $5 million payment to West Linn. The Lake Oswego council is slated to discuss the $5 million payment during its Feb. 19 meeting along with contracts related to the projects.

Lake Oswego City Councilor Jeff Gudman attended the West Linn meeting. He said he didn’t know which way the Lake Oswego council would sway on the projects’ futures.

“There’s a difference between the campaign and actual governing,” he said.

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