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With future in air, Stafford board works to get vote out

As the clock ticks before an “advisory” vote on the Stafford Hamlet’s future, a final informational town hall meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Stafford Primary School.

The vote, which will be conducted at town hall meetings Oct. 9 and Oct. 11, is meant to provide a clear recommendation from the hamlet as Metro and Clackamas County grapple with how to potentially usher in new development by designating Stafford as “urban reserve” land.

Stafford residents will decide between two recommendations: one to revert to Metro’s original designation of the entire Stafford Hamlet as urban reserve land, and the other allowing just the area around Borland Road to be developed as urban reserve, with the rest of Stafford falling under the “undesignated” category.

Saturday’s informational town hall meeting is meant to provide one last chance for residents to learn about their options and provide feedback. Stafford Hamlet Board Vice Chair Thane Eddington will conduct an overview presentation to kick things off, followed by statements of support for both options and a question and answer session.

Ultimately, as part of the final vote, residents will choose between the “urban reserve” and “undesignated” options while also providing specific directions on how they want their own properties to be designated: as “rural reserve,” “undesignated” or “urban reserve.”

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

According to Metro, urban reserves are lands that are outside 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.

Beyond urban reserve, areas can also be classified as “rural reserve” or “undesignated.” According to Metro, rural reserve areas are protected from development for 50 years after their designation, while undesignated land is outside of the urban growth boundary and “of lower priority” for possible urban growth expansion.

The paradigm for Stafford shifted Feb. 20, when the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed and remanded Metro’s original urban reserve designation from 2010. Along with 21 other petitioners, the city of West Linn claimed that the Land Conservation and Development Commission had misapplied legal principles in its review of Metro’s designations.

In the aftermath of the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling, the 2014 State Legislature passed a “grand bargain” bill that shifted more than 600 acres of land from urban to rural reserve. However, that bill applied only to Washington County.

Clackamas County, according to Stafford Hamlet Board Chair Rick Cook, will allow Stafford to make a recommendation of its own before engaging with the 2015 State Legislature on a potential deal.

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point — as Cook learned, it’s impossible to please everyone in the hamlet.

“Some of the more pro-development people think it should have been worded differently for the vote, or include more options,” Cook said. “But this is all we can do.”

In the end, Cook just hopes people turn out en masse for the vote.

“We want to get as much information from all of our citizens to the county commissioners (as possible),” Cook said. “We are a unique area — there’s no one else in the state like us. ... if you can’t make the weekend vote (Oct. 9), come Thursday.”

Contact Patrick Malee at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or pmalee@westlinntidings.com.

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