Future hinges on LO council and resident appeals

West Linn City Councilors approved the expansion of a water treatment plant run by Lake Oswego and Tigard.Tigard city leaders breathed a welcome sigh of relief Monday as the West Linn City Council unanimously approved a water treatment plant expansion and its pipeline.

“West Linn made a courageous and thoughtful decision,” said Dennis Koellermeier, Tigard’s Public Works Director in charge of the project. “At the end of the day, there were no losers in that room. This will clearly be a benefit to (West Linn’s) community, and we were treated fairly.”

Tigard Mayor John L. Cook agreed.

“We want to thank the West Linn City Council for recognizing the benefits of these water infrastructure improvements not only for Lake Oswego and Tigard, but for West Linn as well,” Cook said.  “Having access to clean, reliable drinking water is a necessity, and this approval is a major step toward addressing the long-term water needs of all three communities.”

The meeting marked the completion of a drawn-out conditional-use permit process that began in earnest last spring for the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (Known as LOT).

Tigard has relied on Portland for water for decades, but its current contract with Portland runs out in 2016. At that time, the city will shift water providers and draw on its partnership with Lake Oswego. Once online, the expanded water treatment plant would provide water to the Tigard Water Service Area, which includes most of Tigard south of Highway 217, as well as Bull Mountain, Durham and King City.

“We have the ability to get back on track now,” Koellermeier said. “I am anxious to complete the rest of the tasks we need to do, and I look forward to the next steps.”

Two West Linn city councilors had a change of heart that led to the council’s approval of the proposed water treatment plant expansion and its pipeline during its Monday meeting.

The West Linn City Council was due to deliberate on the controversial project during its Jan. 28 meeting; however, a statement by the mayor introduced new evidence, causing the city to reopen public testimony and applicant rebuttal. At the time, councilors were hung up on the definition of community and whether or not the projects were a benefit — one of the criteria for approval — and appeared to be headed to a split vote.

This time around, the councilors all agreed the projects were a benefit to the community, including the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard, and tacked on five more conditions of approval to an already lengthy list.

Councilors Mike Jones and Jenni Tan reversed their positions on the projects after voicing intention to vote against approval during the Jan. 28 meeting.

The council conducted two nights of public hearings Jan. 14 and 15 to collect community comments on the Lake Oswego-Tigard water treatment plant expansion and pipeline proposals.

Back on Nov. 1, the West Linn Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny the two conditional-use permits, mainly due to lack of community benefit to West Linn. LOT appealed the decision in December to the City Council.

Planning for the future

by: LORI HALL - The West Linn Chamber of Commerce made a united stance against the water treatment plant and pipeline, sending out letters Feb. 5 opposing the projects. The West Linn City Council disagreed, allowing the projects at its Feb. 11 meeting.Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant in West Linn’s Robinwood neighborhood since 1968. In cooperation with the city of Tigard, Lake Oswego wants to expand the plant and run a new pipeline to address the future water needs of both cities.

The plant, which will hold up to 2 million stored gallons of water underground and handle up to 38 million gallons each day, also serves as an emergency backup water supply for West Linn.

Along with a new plant, the project involves the installation of a 4-foot-diameter pipeline from the Clackamas River through West Linn and into Lake Oswego. The pipeline, which will be broken into four construction phases, will extend 1.9 miles in West Linn, crossing through both residential and commercial areas.

Tan said the additional conditions of approval provided more benefits to the “entire city” and added more mitigation to lessen the burden on the Robinwood neighborhood and businesses along Highway 43.

“The greatest additional benefit is that the emergency intertie for backup water will be permanent. The (intergovernmental agreement) would not expire in 2041, but would continue in perpetuity unless all parties agreed to termination,” Tan said.

Four more new conditions, which were all introduced by Jones, include Lake Oswego giving the old water transmission lines to West Linn after they are abandoned, that the clear water well is never upsized to more than 2 million gallons, that LOT must pay for West Linn’s needed third pump station and its related lines, and that LOT must provide $10,000 for the Robinwood Station community center.

“West Linn needs to build water infrastructure, and whether we build it all ourselves or whether we partner with LOT, there will be tons of construction to be dealt with,” West Linn Mayor John Kovash said.

Neighbors plan appeal

Upon hearing the councilors’ votes, West Linn residents starting getting up and leaving, voicing their disappointment. The council will meet Monday at 9 a.m. to vote on the findings of the applications. From there, it is up to the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard to move on the permits and up to the residents of West Linn to appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. According to City Manager Chris Jordan, anyone with standing can appeal to LUBA within 21 days of the notice of the final order, and LOT has three years to act on the approval.

“We are very happy,” said LOT Communications Director Jane Heisler. “We felt we had a good application that met all the criteria. We think this goes a long way toward solving water issues for all three communities.

“It’s been a difficult process for everyone involved and controversial. We’re not opponents, we’re neighbors. We want to work together, as neighbors.”

West Linn resident Dave Froode is the managing partner of STOP LLC, a registered group of West Linn citizens opposed to the projects. He said Tuesday that his group plans to appeal to LUBA.

“We’re not going away. This is a four-quarter game. This is halftime,” Froode said. “People in Lake Oswego and West Linn do not want this project to occur. The next step of this journey will be LUBA.”

However, the process may not need to go to LUBA. There have been rumblings in Lake Oswego that some of the newest councilors may not support the project as it stands, especially with all of the conditions, including a one-time $5 million payment to West Linn. The Lake Oswego council is slated to discuss the $5 million payment during its Feb. 19 meeting along with contracts related to the projects.

Lake Oswego City Councilor Jeff Gudman attended the West Linn meeting. He said he didn’t know which way the Lake Oswego council would sway on the projects’ futures.

“There’s a difference between the campaign and actual governing,” he said.

Times reporter Geoff Pursinger contributed to this article.

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