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Debate on Stafford's future re-ignites at legislature

House Bill 3211 would designate all of Stafford as 'urban reserve'


As the 2015 Oregon legislative session begins to ramp up, the future of the Stafford Hamlet area has once again come into play in the form of a bill that would designate the entire hamlet as “urban reserve” land.

PARRISH

House Bill 3211 would reinstate Metro’s original urban reserve designation that was made back in 2010, and thus end a remand process that was mandated in a 2014 ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

According to Metro, urban reserves are lands that lie outside of current growth boundaries and are suitable for urban development in the next 40 to 50 years. Typically, the urban reserve designation is the precursor to being included in the urban growth boundary.

The Stafford area is nearly 4,000 acres, and of that, about 1,000 acres is considered developable. The land is a buffer of rolling hills and woodlands between Lake Oswego, West Linn and Tualatin.

West Linn and Tualatin have long said they do not wish to develop the Stafford area, citing concerns with infrastructure as well as transportation.In an Oct. 2014 vote , 85 percent of Stafford Hamlet residents favored a “compromise” solution that would allow the area around Borland Road to be developed as urban reserve, with the rest of Stafford falling under an “undesignated” category that is outside the urban growth boundary.

House Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn, Tualatin) said she was not consulted and had no knowledge of HB 3211 before it was submitted by Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville) through the Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water. Parrish submitted her own Stafford bill simply as a placeholder, she said, but removed it from the hearing schedule for further consultation.

“The way the legislature works, we only have a certain amount of time to draft and file bills,” Parrish said. “The deadline was going to come and go. But if a placeholder bill is in the system, then we have the bulk of the session to amend and add language, should there be a thoughtful solution.”

Parrish and Davis are set to meet with a group of representatives from the Stafford Hamlet board this coming weekend, with Rep. Brian Clem of Salem also in attendance. Parrish said she will push for whatever consensus the community can come to, but that she also wants to find a solution to help land owners develop in the area.

“I made a commitment, when we passed a law that said ‘no composting next to schools,’ that I would be committed to finding a way (to help) people like S&H (Logging) who are ready to do something economically productive with their land,” Parrish said. “I’m not interested in moving forward if there’s not some consensus ... we’ll see what the community comes up with.”

“Consensus” is exactly what Stafford board chair Thane Eddington is focused on as the legislation session moves forward, though he does feel that the hamlet vote last fall served as a strong indication of the community’s desire.

“What makes our voice unique is the ability to communicate with others,” Eddington said. “We have spent years doing this, so any language being proposed, we respect those perspectives but we’re very enthusiastic for the opportunity to share how eight years of discussions and community involvement have come to where we are now.

“We’re not any less concerned (about the future), but everyone comes from a starting frame of reference, and we think our view has a lot of merit as it’s something we’ve been working on for a long time.”

At the meeting with legislators, Eddington will lay out a case for why the hamlet’s compromise is the best way forward.

“What the hamlet likes about this is it offers a lot of ways to move forward, as far as the need for new employment land and giving land owners options for their properties,” Eddington said. “It’s retaining the rural character of the land and also providing employment land.”

Beyond meeting with legislators this weekend, Eddington said the hamlet board also plans to visit with each of the hamlet’s surrounding cities within the next month.

“We appreciate any opportunity to work with the legislative branch, neighboring cities, Clackamas County and Metro to work on finding a solution,” Eddington said. “Our understanding is there are a number of bills moving to committee and the language in them currently is really a starting point or placeholder to move forward.”

At a March 10 policy session, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to support the general concept of HB 3211, with the caveat that the language of the bill would likely change over time and that the county will revisit the issue.

The 2015 legislative session ends in July.

Patrick Malee can be contacted at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106, or pmalee@westlinntidings.com.

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