A look at the top stories of 2012

The year 2012 was filled with many highs and lows for members of the West Linn community.

The city struggled with policy, lawsuits and proposed ballot measures. Residents dug in their heels and put up fights defending their neighborhoods and their dreams for their community. The city struggled with large issues, policy and a looming budget deficit. The city suffered the loss of too many of its residents, both young and old, in accidents and tragedies.

For many, 2012 could not be over soon enough.

However, along the way there were celebrations, milestones and accomplishments.

Here is a look back at the stories that dominated our headlines in 2012.

— Lori Hall, editor

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Law enforcement and paramedics gathered Dec. 11 outside Clackamas Town Center after a gunman shot several people, including a West Linn man, inside the shopping center.

West Linn father dies in Clackamas Town Center shootings

West Linn lost one of its own at the Clackamas Town Center shootings Dec. 11.

Citizens in West Linn were left staggering after a gunman opened fire in Clackamas Town Center. One of the victims was West Linn father 45-year-old Steven Forsyth.

Forsyth owned a marketing agency in Portland and formerly worked for Entercom communications. He had also just opened a kiosk at the mall.

There were two other victims in the shooting. Fifteen-year-old Kristina Shevchenko was wounded but is currently recovering. Ann Yuille, 54, was also killed by the shooter, 22-year-old Jack Tyler Roberts, who shot and killed himself at the mall.

The attack began at about 3:27 p.m., sending nearly 10,000 people scrambling for exits inside the two-level, 1.2 million-square-foot shopping center. Shoppers and mall employees locked themselves in the backs of stores and waited hours before getting cleared from the scene.

by: VERN UYETAKE - The West Linn Planning Commission denied Lake Oswego's application to expand its water treatment plant, which is located in the Robinwood neighborhood, in 2012. The city council is slated to consider the controversial application this month.

Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Treatment Plant battle continues

Residents in West Linn experienced a short-lived win in November when the West Linn Planning Commission unanimously denied two proposed projects for expanding Lake Oswego’s water treatment plant.

After three nights of hearing hours of public testimony against a proposed water treatment plant expansion and the installation of a new water pipeline through West Linn, the planning commission voted to reject the projects, saying they did not benefit the community. These hearings followed a previous set of hearings held in the spring before the applications were put on hold.

However, in December, the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership appealed the planning commission’s decision to the West Linn City Council, which will hear the applications this month.

Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant between Kenthorpe Way and Mapleton Drive 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 under the water partnership.

Residents near the plant and businesses along the pipeline route have expressed concern about the noise, safety and disruption the project will create.

According to the proposal, the plant would hold up to 2 million stored gallons of water underground and handle up to 38 million gallons each day. The project also involved the installation of a 4-foot-diameter pipeline from the Clackamas River, through a portion of Mary S. Young State Park, to the water treatment plant and then down Highway 43 toward Lake Oswego.

by: VERN UYETAKE - After being closed for 22 months, the arch bridge between West Linn and Oregon City reopened to traffic in October.

West Linn-Oregon City Arch Bridge reopens

The arch bridge that spans the Willamette River between Oregon City and West Linn reopened to traffic Oct. 15 after a weekend of celebration.

The bridge, which was constructed in 1922, was closed for 22 months for restoration.

Through the restoration, there is a new roadway, sidewalks, railings, pylons and replica historic lights. To add strength and longevity to the bridge, repairs were made to the steel under the original concrete coating.

In the process, 18,000 square feet of gunite (concrete) was removed using a high-pressure water jet. More than 1,500 feet of concrete railing was replaced.

Though the bridge is now open, finishing touches will continue to be made until March 31. An estimated 14,000 vehicles crossed the bridge daily before it closed.

Construction costs for the bridge were $14.6 million, paid 89.7 percent with federal funds and 10.3 percent from state funds.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Last spring, the county purchased a parcel of property once owned by the former Blue Heron Paper Co. The county is giving West Linn the freedom to devleop the majority of the 39 acres.

County closes on Blue Heron property

On July 19, Clackamas County closed on the purchase of the West Linn Blue Heron property, which could be a big boon to the city of West Linn.

The 39-acre site is near Willamette Park, bordering the Willamette River, and is the former property of the bankrupt Blue Heron Paper Co. that was based in Oregon City.

After Blue Heron declared bankruptcy, Clackamas County’s Water Environment Services (WES) purchased the site this spring with interest in the site’s valuable outfall permits. Those permits will allow WES to release treated wastewater into the Willamette River. WES is working on behalf of the Tri-City Service District and Clackamas County Service District No. 1. The service district and the Tri-City Service District provide wastewater services to most of urbanized north Clackamas County.

Although the county officially owns the property, it is willing to make an agreement for West Linn to redevelop the site. No formal agreement has been made yet.

While it is still unknown how the property will be used, the city is still taking input and suggestions from the community at the website

by: CITY OF WEST LINN - Water main breaks occur on a monthly basis in West Linn. The city hopes to pass a water rate increase in March to raise funds to repair and replace water transmission lines.

Water woes plague city

In July, the city decided not to pursue a November bond measure asking for $20 million in water system improvements. Instead, the council voted to move the measure to 2013.

The city is battling an aging and insufficient water system with rusting pipes, frequent water main breaks and a reservoir that has outlived its intended use. After talking with the Water System Improvement Task Force and the West Linn Utility Advisory Board, the council decided to stall the vote until March and refine the request.

Voters will decide in a special ballot measure whether or not to grant a one-time rate increase of 18 percent on top of the allotted 5 percent annual increases that occurs each January. The added increase will generate another $540,000 a year to start repairing the 120 miles of water transmission lines in the city.

Judge orders family to remove backyard pool

What was supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable backyard amenity has been nothing but a headache for a West Linn family and the city of West Linn. The city and Troy and Gina Bundy were at odds over the installation of a swimming pool in a restricted area since 2010. This summer, the city slapped some hefty citations on the Bundys and a municipal court hearing ensued.

A judge ordered the Bundys to remove the pool by the end of 2012 or pay a fine of up to $366,000. The Bundys have asked for an extension and have a hearing slated for today, Jan. 3, to see if they have abided by the judge’s orders.

To add to the controversy, the Bundys filed a lawsuit against the city of West Linn on Aug. 28 in Clackamas County Circuit Court. In the complaint, the Bundys allege the conservation easement on their property is illegal and voidable because the city failed to follow state-required notice and public hearing procedures and this city council did not approve the easement.

by: VERN UYETAKE - The Summit opened in October to give haven to middle-school students in West Linn. The afterschool drop-in site offers videos, games and spots for kids to hang out with each other.

Teen center opens in West Linn

Despite some last-minute stumbling blocks, West Linn’s teen center, The Summit, opened in October. The teen center was partly in response to an issue of students loitering at the shopping center after school.

A partnership between Willamette Christian Church and the YMCA, the teen center is open school days from 4 to 6 p.m.

In the summer, the church received city approval for a one-year temporary use permit to use the space in the Cascade Summit shopping complex.

The teen center stumbled when some questioned the separation of church and state after several city staff participated on the teen center advisory board during the planning process and after the city granted the church $1,300 for programming and waived the application fee for the conditional use permit. The church has since repaid the grant and city staff has withdrawn from the advisory board.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Residents are continuing to fight against a proposed compost and land mining facility in the Stafford area.

Stafford residents continue to fight a proposed compost site

Residents in the Stafford Hamlet continued to fight their battle against a proposed compost and land mining operation on Borland Road in 2012.

S&H, a landscaping and recycling company, plans to build a composting and land mining site in the Stafford Hamlet, but at a design appeal hearing Dec. 20, community members expressed a collective desire that the project not go forward as planned.

Neighboring residents have long expressed concern about the noise, traffic and smell the composting facility would generate. A nonprofit group, Friends of Stafford Hamlet, attempted to appeal the conditional use permit early in 2012, but the case was dismissed.

The new facility would be located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Southwest Borland and Stafford roads, near Stafford Primary and Athey Creek Middle School and close to numerous residences, businesses and places of worship.

The new composting facility will process yard debris, food scraps and manure into compost, which can be used in products sold at S&H’s retail site.

Though the facility’s conditional use permit was already approved and the project is at design approval, residents, elected officials and school district employees spoke out of their continued malcontent with the proposed facility.

A decision on the design will be made by a county hearings officer sometime in February.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Nearly a year ahead of schedule, Walmart opened its first Neighborhood Market on the West Coast this spring in West Linn.

Walmart opens its doors

Walmart opened the doors of its Neighborhood Market on May 25 in West Linn. It was the first store of its kind on the West Coast, with a location in Lake Oswego soon following.

Walmart’s first Neighborhood Market opened in 1998, and there are about 170 Walmart Neighborhood Market stores nationwide. They typically range in size from 30,000 to 40,000 square feet. The West Linn store is 34,000 square feet.

The store, located at 19133 Willamette Drive, filled a long-vacant space in the Robinwood Shopping Center. The location used to be a Zupan’s and then a Bales Thriftway, but had been empty for a few years.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Jackson Chandler, left, and Bradley Nelson review a map that shows where search crews looked for them and where they were found.

Two teens found safe after two days lost in woods

Two missing teens were found safe Oct. 29 after spending two full days in the woods east of Molalla in Clackamas County.

Jackson Chandler and Bradley Nelsen, who were 17 and 16 at the time, were found walking along a forest service road by a Molalla resident.

The teens had set out for what was supposed to be a short hike, but the duo missed the trailhead and ventured out on their own. They lost their bearings and ended up missing for 44 hours and having walked nearly 50 miles.

Councilor threatens lawsuit against the city

After accusations of public meeting law violations, the city council had to re-conduct a discussion and vote on hiring an in-house city attorney. In a vote of 4 to 1 on May 14, the council gave Citby: SUBMITTED - THORNTONy Manager Chris Jordan the power to recruit, hire and supervise an in-house attorney, who would supplement the city’s existing contract attorney.

Outgoing City Councilor Teri Cummings strongly opposed the process from the beginning and voted against it.

Cummings and another resident then accused the city council of a meeting law violation concerning an executive session held to discuss the creation of the position and threatened a lawsuit against the city. However, the deadline to file the lawsuit passed with no action.

The city hired Megan Thornton in July for the assistant attorney position.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Ryan Holmes plays basketball with his kids and a neighbor, Brook Pene, on the sport court at his home on Kensington Drive. Neighbors have complained about the noise and the light associated with the court.

Neighbors wage war over sport courts

Backyard battles came to the forefront of the planning commission and the city council this year with residents complaining about noise and light coming from sport courts.

In the fall, the planning commission held several work sessions to explore the impact sport courts have on neighbors, including noise, lighting, safety and stormwater runoff.

The issue then moved to the city council in November, which heard the testimony.

The city council explored three possible changes to the city’s nuisance ordinance under the city community development code. However, the council decided to move forward with only two of them — one concerning light and one concerning noise.

Locks and dam get recognition, support

The One Willamette River Coalition, whose members have been working for six years to keep the 1873 Willamette Falls Navigation Canal and Locks operating, picked up some powerful new friends May 22 with a joint public announcement by the National Trust for Historic Preservation League of Oregon.

The locks were previously listed as one of nine on the Historic Preservation League of Oregon’s 2012 list of the state’s most endangered places.

by: VERN UYETAKE - Professional's Choice Awards Best of Show Winner was 20/20 by Bernard Custom Construction at the 2012 Street of Dreams in West Linn.

Street of Dreams showcases West Linn

In July, local homebuilders put the finishing touches on this year’s NW Natural Street of Dreams. The tour’s seven luxury homes displayed the best and brightest of new home construction, landscaping and interior design.

West Linn fights to keep Stafford rural

West Linn continued its fight to keep Stafford a rural haven in 2012.

In a multi-year battle to appeal the designation of Stafford as an “urban reserve,” the cities of Tualatin and West Linn were informed Aug. 14 that their appeal to the Land Conservation and Development Commission was rejected. The city council voted to bring the case to the state court of appeals. The decision on the appeal could be heard early this year.

City sees red in next two years

In October, the city announced that it will face a $1.2 million shortfall in the next biennium. The city is currently soliciting suggestions from the citizens for ways to cut costs and generate revenue.

On Sept. 28, the state Public Employee Retirement System board announced the new PERS rates, which public employers will need to pay for the next two years — these rate increases will cost the city an extra $430,000 per year.

Although the rate jump didn’t come as a compete surprise, the 4.5 percent increase did. The city had anticipated a 2 percent hike.

Two years ago, the city slashed $1.2 million from its budget. The city is facing a similar challenged for this next biennium with more than $800,000 of it resulting from the added PERS cost.

Aquatic center talk dries up

The city considered whether or not to hold a bond measure to fund a community aquatic and recreation center, but opted to push it back and it is now undergoing continuous refinement.

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