Lawsuit threatened if county ignores requests to end Highway 26 plan

When Boring property owners bordering Highway 26 heard for the first time last year that they would have to give up some of their land and plant trees, there was a loud uproar.

One of the landowners, Norm Rice, said part of his home was sitting on the land he would have to give away as an easement.

Initially, an agreement to create a 50-foot-wide tree buffer along both sides of Highway 26 was created in 1997-98 between the city of Sandy, Clackamas County, Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

But a few years ago it was discovered that the agreement had been violated. It also was discovered that ODOT hadn’t signed the agreement. So Sandy officials proposed another agreement. That compact, which didn’t include ODOT, was signed last year.

When affected property owners learned that agreement had been approved without their knowledge, they reacted. They were especially concerned when they learned they would be required to give away a 50-foot strip of their land as an easement to plant trees.

The language was strong last April from the Boring Citizen Planning Organization when the issue was brought to the group.

The CPO unanimously approved a position statement demanding the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners withdraw from the 2011 Highway 26 corridor agreement.

That demand was answered with silence, and Boring Chairman Steve Bates said he still has received no reply.

Last week, the CPO voted unanimously to endorse a petition that is being sent to the commissioners, signed by what Bates described as “a majority of the property owners” along Highway 26 in the area described in the 2011 agreement.

The petition from the property owners also demands that commissioners withdraw from the agreement with a letter of termination.

The affected property owners and CPO members have at least 10 reasons to object to the provisions of both agreements.

First they question the legal validity of the 1997-98 agreement because it is a four-party agreement and ODOT refused to sign it because it would have been too expensive to buy that buffer land and plant trees.

Since CPO officials and landowners believe that agreement is invalid, they also think the subsequent 2011 agreement is invalid.

Among the stated reasons for objection are: the city of Sandy shouldn’t be dictating land-use rules outside its city boundaries; both agreements were signed without notifying affected landowners; no remuneration is proposed for essentially the taking of land, which lowers property value; and landowners are required to continue paying property taxes on land they can’t use.

The city of Sandy, however, does not recognize Boring as a government entity, said City Manager Scott Lazenby, and therefore he will speak only with the county commission.

“CPOs do not speak for people,” Lazenby said. “They are not a government or a pseudo-government. It’s a complete abuse of the role of a CPO for them to even be making this an issue.”

Bates said he had invited Lazenby and Sandy Mayor Bill King to speak to the CPO at the group’s June 5 meeting, and had set aside 30 minutes of the meeting for a presentation from the city about the green belt agreement. But no one from Sandy came to speak.

Bates said he had looked through the minutes of previous CPO meetings and discovered that Lazenby had attended a Boring CPO meeting July 3, 2007, and at that time stated he also had attended a meeting in 1994 and on one other date.

“Mr. Lazenby has recognized and respected the Boring CPO at least three times in the past,” Bates said, “but he doesn’t want to now because the Boring CPO has publicly voted and taken a position opposing his goal of having a green belt (outside of Sandy). That green belt violates the constitutional property rights of the affected property owners.”

Speaking only for himself, not for the commission, Paul Savas said only the chairperson determines the agenda, and the CPO’s request in April, asking the county to withdraw from the agreement, has not been placed on the agenda.

“There’s no imminent danger (in the agreement),” Savas said. “I support the withdrawal, but nothing is going to happen until the land is adjacent to a city — and neither Sandy nor Damascus are likely to want to annex Boring. The trigger, when the agreement goes into effect, is when a comprehensive plan is put in place.”

It is clear the commission should respond in some manner to the demands of the CPO and landowners. Just how they might respond is not clear, but further action by landowners is pretty certain.

In response to a question asked at last week’s CPO meeting, Bates said if the commission does not respond to the satisfaction of landowners, the next action would be a civil lawsuit.

“As I mentioned at the last meeting,” he said, “there is a nonprofit organization that is looking at the possibility of litigation on behalf of the landowners.”

Four commission candidates will attend the Oct. 2 CPO meeting to present their campaign promises and answer questions. It is likely they will receive questions on this issue.

For more information, call Bates at 503-663-6271.

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine