WL staff recommends approval of plant expansion
by: Vern Uyetake Signs like these in West Linn show how many Robinwood residents feel about Lake Oswego's proposed water plant expansion in their neighborhood.

After hearing more than four hours of public testimony, the West Linn Planning Commission has continued the conditional use public hearing for the proposed Lake Oswego water treatment plant expansion.

The commission took testimony until 11:30 p.m. both April 18 and 25. The commission will meet again May 2 to hear testimony from staff and a final rebuttal from the applicants before deliberating.

The proposed water plant expansion aims to address future needs for both the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard.

Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant since 1968 in the Robinwood neighborhood between Kenthorpe Way and Mapleton Drive. In cooperation with the city of Tigard, Lake Oswego now wants to expand the plant and run a new pipeline to address the future water needs of both cities through the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT).

Neighbors have continually expressed concern about the plant expansion and the pipeline installation.

The plant, which will hold up to 3 million stored gallons of water underground and handle up to 38 million gallons, also serves as an emergency backup water supply for West Linn.

'This is an important project. It's important to Lake Oswego and Tigard,' Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman said to the planning commission at the April 18 hearing. He said he told his staff to 'treat West Linn residents as you would treat residents of Lake Oswego and residents of Tigard.'

The plant expansion would increase the property size from six acres to 9.2 acres, incorporating four residential lots Lake Oswego owns. Lake Oswego is currently in a condemnation process with neighbors to remove the existing covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC and Rs) of the Maple Grove plat that prohibit anything but residential use of the properties.

If approved, the phased expansion of the plant is expected to begin in spring 2013 and complete in fall 2015, a total period of two and a half years.

West Linn staff recommended approval of the conditional use permit, which allows for a new administration building, an underground water reservoir, settling facilities and treatment facilities.

In planning for the expansion, LOT has held close to 60 meetings with West Linn neighbors, boards, associations and committees, hosting open houses, conducting workshops and giving tours.

'It's been quite an outreach program,' said Joel Komarek, LOT program director.

The proposed plan includes sustainable development techniques and street improvements to Mapleton and Kenthorpe, including wide sidewalks and a community green space. The new facility would use new technology, and most of its mechanics will be contained inside.

'The upgraded facility is expected to be safer and more efficient than the current one due to modernization of the operations, utilizing the latest technologies and compliance with the current codes from outside agencies,' stated the staff report for the planning commission.

'This is probably going to be one of the quietest plants we've ever built,' said Jeff McGraw, a principal at MWH, the firm behind the plan.

Planning Commissioner Russell Axelrod asked Komarek if Lake Oswego had conducted any other feasibility studies or considered a different site for the facility.

Komarek said the only other option explored was relocating the plant near Rosemont and Stafford roads on the Luscher Farm complex; however, the property is outside of the urban growth boundary.

'I don't think anybody is interested in bringing it into the UGB anytime soon,' said Komarek.

However, that is exactly what Lake Oswego is now trying to do. City officials are pushing to bring 93 acres of Luscher-area properties inside of the urban growth boundary, in part to build a new indoor tennis center.

Commissioner Thomas Frank inquired about the real benefit of continuing West Linn's intertie with the expansion.

Under an existing agreement with Lake Oswego, West Linn has an intertie at Old River Road and Kenthorpe Way that the city can tap into in an emergency. However, with the current water supply, Lake Oswego cannot guarantee extra water in an emergency during peak water use seasons.

With the expansion, LOT officials say 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.

West Linn would need to renegotiate an agreement with Lake Oswego and Tigard to retain the intertie, and West Linn would need to invest in an additional pump at the intertie, which is estimated to cost $100,000.

Because West Linn already has the intertie with Lake Oswego, some commissioners questioned the benefit.

'Is this a benefit to West Linn? Where is the benefit?" asked commissioner Robert Martin.

Commissioner Axelrod also commented on the disruption to neighbors of the plant with construction trucks expected to travel in and out of the site for more than two years.

Some residents at the April 18 hearing questioned why the plant expansion and the pipeline construction were being considered in two separate applications. An application for the pipeline has not yet been submitted. Planning and Building Director John Sonnen said, 'Whether or not the application for the water plant and the pipeline project were considered together or separately was up to the applicant.'

According to Jane Heisler, LOT communications director, 'the plant, the trenched pipeline and the horizontal directional drilled pipeline (HDD) all involve different designers and contractors. Each of these facilities also has different permitting schedules and different lengths of time to construct. We need to get the earliest start possible on the plant as it takes two and a half years to build and some of the specialized equipment must be procured ahead of time - it is a time-critical facility, which is why (the plant) is going first.'

Of the 45 residents who spoke at the two meetings, only one spoke in favor of the project.

'It saddens me personally that we've gotten to this point,' said Bruce Griswold. He said issues neighbors are concerned about include hazard insurance, the long construction cycle and condemnation of the CC and Rs.

'To me, being a good neighbor means trying to work this out,' said Griswold, citing there has not been enough mitigation.

Resident Bob Stowell pointed out that there are no other facilities like the one being proposed, where the plant does not serve the city it is in.

Lamont King lived in the neighborhood before the plant was even constructed.

'We didn't want an industrial plant then, and we still don't," he said. "It's still an industrial application in a residential neighborhood.'

Karen Lucas, who lives in the Willamette neighborhood, said, 'This is home for us all and we love it. This has been categorized as a Robinwood problem. We stand together or we fall together. This affects all of us.

'When did we climb into bed with Lake Oswego? … The leaders of Lake Oswego are shrewd, arrogant and greedy. This sets a precedent, and so does West Linn's action or inaction.'

Steve Hopkins asked the commission, 'Who here would like to have two, three years of construction near their house? Why do we have to put up with this?'

Residents also voiced concerns about their property values plummeting and the risk of harm if an earthquake destroys the plant.

'I think this is more about money and property rights than being a good neighbor,' said Neal Rea.

The planning commission voted to continue the hearing to next Wednesday, when it can ask questions of staff and hear a final rebuttal from LOT representatives.

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