West Linn Planning Commission denies water treatment plant plans

Tigard officials have been working with Lake Oswego since 2008 to develop a joint water system between the two cities, giving the Tigard Water District, which includes King City, access to its own water supply for the first time.

Those plans call for expanding Lake Oswego’s water treatment plant, located in West Linn, and installing a new water pipeline from the plant to Lake Oswego and Tigard.

But the West Linn Planning Commission denied plans to expand the plant Nov. 1, saying city officials could not find any benefit to West Linn.

“The bottom line is the community has spoken loudly and clearly for us to consider how emphatic they are that this is not a benefit to them, to not abandon them in their hour of need,” Commissioner Holly Miller said.

The expansion would double the amount of water treated at the plant each day, handling up to 38 million gallons daily for Tigard, Lake Oswego, Bull Mountain, Durham and King City, as well as provide an emergency backup water supply for West Linn.

Tigard Public Works Director Dennis Koellermeier said he was very surprised by the commission’s decision and could not understand how the seven-member group came to its decision.

“I was dumbfounded,” he said. “Some of the arguments they raised were not understandable.”

Koellermeier said the Tigard-Lake Oswego Water Partnership would likely appeal the decision to the West Linn City Council, and it had 14 days to appeal the Planning Commission’s ruling after it is finalized.

“We need to spend some time looking at the findings of the Planning Commission and see what we need to emphasize with the council,” he said.

If the City Council sides with the Planning Commission, Koellermeier said there are other options than expanding the water treatment plant in West Linn. However, those options are costlier.

“This (water treatment plant expansion) is the best solution for citizens of Tigard and Lake Oswego,” Koellermeier said. “There are other options, and this is the best one. I think this is the way to go.”

Neighbors near the plant fought a years-long campaign against the expansion, testifying before the Planning Commission that it would reduce property values and increase the risk of flooding and burst pipes, among other concerns.

It was these concerns that led the commission to deny the expansion, which Koellermeier said should not have been considered.

At the Planning Committion meeting, Koellermeier told commissioners the partnership had gone above and beyond what is required by the city’s code, including two years’ worth of neighborhood meetings, consolidating the plant site design, reducing noise and glare at the plant, providing amenities for the neighborhood and phasing construction to reduce traffic.

One criterion in West Linn’s community development code states the proposal must benefit the community. Planning commissioners said they could not find any benefits to the community in the expansion plans.

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