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Stafford isn't urban


An article in Oct. 3 Tidings by Tidings Assistant Editor Kara Hansen (“Compromise nears in Stafford”) gives the overall impression that a process is in place to assure that the Stafford Basin will keep progressing toward its eventual urbanization.

This nightmare keeps recurring from time to time. It’s promoted by developers and landowners in the basin who want to make a lot of money through having their rural land urbanized at the expense of taxpayers in the surrounding towns of West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin.

The residents of those three towns are overwhelmingly opposed to its urbanization. Obviously, that fact has been brushed aside by development interests, Clackamas County (with its hamlet nonsense) and Metro as if it doesn’t exist.

The Stafford Basin would be the most costly area to urbanize anywhere throughout the Portland metropolitan region. That’s why the court of appeals rejected Metro’s expansion of the urban growth boundary into the basin in 2002 and required the UGB be rolled back to where it was. Did Metro learn anything from that or does it intend to try expanding the UGB there again?

Even though it’s the dream of developers to have the whole basin designated as an urban reserve so they can urbanize it to make untold amounts of big money at taxpayers’ expense, the fulfillment of their dream would be devastating to the livability and affordability of the vast majority of residents of the basin (except for those who want to sell their land to developers and then move elsewhere) as well as all of the residents of West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin.

However, there’s a most important defense against such a catastrophe not mentioned in Hansen’s article. It’s known as “voter approved annexation,” which is required in West Linn, Lake Oswego and probably also in Tualatin by now.

It first took effect in West Linn after approval of a citizens’ initiative petition spearheaded by David Dodds before he became mayor. It’s stipulated in Section 3 of West Linn’s charter. It essentially requires that no city services can be extended to lands outside existing city boundaries without annexation of such lands. But annexation requires approval by the voters, who in their own interest would undoubtedly not approve it unless misled by hype circulated by development interests.

To service urbanization of Stafford Basin’s basic infrastructure alone would include water facilities, sanitary sewer facilities, storm water facilities, parks and roads. Thus far, the well-funded influential developer lobby in Salem has seen to it that these are the only categories of infrastructure for which system development charges can be charged. But most jurisdictions have not even imposed anywhere near adequate SDCs known as full-cost SDCs (established for West Linn by the Mayor Dodds administration). Clackamas County’s SDCs are so little they are a joke. Very expensive categories of infrastructure for which no SDCs can be charged to developers are schools, libraries, police and fire facilities, community centers, community colleges, justice centers, jails, county facilities, hospitals, public health facilities, etc.

The very pronounced undulating topography of the basin makes it extremely difficult and expensive to build nearly all forms of infrastructure. It would be a nightmare. The most extreme and costly engineering nightmare presents itself when considering the provision of roads throughout the basin while also providing freeway access to Interstate 205.

Bob Thomas is a resident of West Linn.