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Residents appeal water plant decisions

Three appeals are filed to LUBA; trees being removed from site


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE -  The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership commenced work at the water treatment plant this week by beginning to remove nearly 200 trees from the site to make room for the plant's expansion.Three appeals have been filed against the proposed Lake Oswego-Tigard water treatment plant permit and its related pipeline permit.

The appeals were filed with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals by two different citizen groups.

In February, the West Linn City Council approved two conditional use permits that would allow the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) to rebuild and expand its current water treatment facility and install a larger pipeline.

West Linn residents have been actively fighting these permits for several years.

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. After several rounds of hearings and a continuation of one meeting along with the addition of nearly two dozen conditions of approval, the city council approved the projects.

Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant 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 through both residential and commercial areas.

The West Linn council contends that the projects will benefit the community thanks to an emergency water intertie agreement that would run to perpetuity, along with a $5 million lump-sum payment and $10,000 for the Robinwood community center.

However, residents have continually found fault with the size and scope of the project.

William J. More, managing member of the Robinwood Shopping Center, Carl and Linda Edwards, Curt Sommer and Robert Stowell filed an appeal against the water pipeline.

Two more appeals, one against the pipeline and one against the water treatment plant, were filed by STOP LLC, which is a registered group of citizens opposed to the projects, as well as former Mayor Norman King, Pete Bedard, Michael Monical, Carol and Mark Elsworth, Shanon Vroman, Jenne Henderson, Lamont King, Thomas and Gwen Sieben, Scott and Jan Gerber, Jack Norby, Thom Holder, Gary Hitesman and Rebecca and Darryl Walthers.

According to LOT Communications Director Jane Heisler, Lake Oswego has already intervened to defend the permits and to keep the wheels in motion.

Although residents have filed appeals on the permits, this doesn’t stop LOT from proceeding with its plans and work. The Lake Oswego City Council has already approved some contracts to start work.

“We have an approval from West Linn and we are continuing on,” Heisler said.

On March 5 the Lake Oswego City Council discussed proceeding with contracts despite the pending legal issues. Some councilors were more hesitant to approve contracts that were less time-sensitive.by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE -

Project Director Joel Komarek assured the council members they could, and should, proceed.

“If we were to wait until every permit was secured ... we couldn’t do anything,” he said. “You have to do design to even apply for permits.”

Work started on Monday with the removal of about 200 trees, which will take about three weeks, to provide room for facilities and construction activity. LOT is also moving forward with the installation of security fencing and a “good neighbor” fence that will block plant construction from neighbors’ view.

The West Linn City Council discussed the start of work on the water plant site and neighbors’ concerns during its March 18 work session.

Neighbors are expressing concern that trees are being removed and work is starting despite the LUBA appeal and questioning whether LOT will have to conduct mitigation if LUBA overrules the council’s approvals. Assistant City Attorney Megan Thornton said she was fairly certain LOT would have to replace the trees if the decision was reversed.

Dave Froode, the managing partner for STOP and a Robinwood resident, questioned LOT’s decision to start work.

“What is the big rush? What is the next thing after tree cutting they have to get done to justify dropping hundred-year-old trees before they are guaranteed permits?” he asked.

Resident Scott Gerber also asked, “How do you ‘mitigate’ the destruction of a hundred-year-old tree?”

According to Heisler, plans for erosion control and drill test holes for the pilings are also moving forward. Also, LOT will be sending out requests for proposals in April for a contractor for the water treatment plant.

Several West Linn councilors expressed disappointment that LOT has not moved quickly on establishing a 24-hour hotline for residents to call.

“There are things LOT can be doing, i.e., the hotline,” Council President Mike Jones said. “We have some legitimately upset citizens and we need some of things done as soon as possible.”

“They said they were going to be a good neighbor,” Councilor Jenni Tan said. “When they are not doing that, it’s such a bad feeling, a bad taste.”

“We need to tell them what else we want them to do for our citizens,” Mayor John Kovash said.

Members of the West Linn City Council all agreed that they would like to meet with the members of the Lake Oswego City Council to discuss public outreach.

According to LUBA, an appeal does not automatically stop development that has already been approved by a city. A “motion for stay” must be filed and approved before the brakes can be put on a project. No motions have been filed yet. State law requires the petitioner to post a $5,000 bond if LUBA grants a stay. If LUBA upholds the city council’s decision, then the bond would be used to reimburse LOT for attorney fees.

The next step gives the city of West Linn 21 days to file with LUBA a copy of the record of its decisions. From there, any party has 14 days to object to the contents of the record.

Then, the petitioners have 21 days after West Linn files its records to “petition for review.” This is where in the process the reasons for the appeals will be revealed and examined, to which the city will have a chance to respond.

After hearing oral arguments from both sides, LUBA will then issue a decision. According to LUBA, the appeal process takes between four and eight months.

There are several options for LUBA. It could uphold the city council’s decision, overrule the decision, remand the decision back to the city council for further action, dismiss the case or transfer the appeal to circuit court.

Any party can appeal a LUBA decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.



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