Lake Oswego, West Linn residents settle on lawsuit related to treatment plant

Lake Oswego and a group of West Linn residents settled a drawn-out condemnation lawsuit last week.

The city of Lake Oswego will be able to remove land-use restrictions from properties it owns around its water treatment plant in West Linn, allowing the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership to potentially use the lots for an expanded and upgraded drinking water facility.

Lake Oswego officials announced Jan. 31 that the city reached a settlement agreement with 32 property owners in what is known as the “Maple Grove Plat” in West Linn’s Robinwood neighborhood, thus ending condemnation proceedings that were under way.

The settlement will pay property owners $4,000 per plat plus another $2,000 in attorney’s fees, a sum some of the property owners contend isn’t nearly high enough. In addition, the judge put a two-year timeline on the settlement, which means residents may not see the money until 2014, or at all if the conditional use permits for the water treatment plant expansion and pipeline are denied by West Linn.

“We’re convinced our covenants are worth more than the $4,000 the previous group got,” resident Eric Jones said, referring to another group of neighbors who settled with Lake Oswego last June for $4,000 per parcel.

Jones said his group asked for $8,000, but its attorney’s counterproposals were all denied by the judge.

“This has been a huge stress on the neighbors and the neighborhood,” Jones said. “It may be two years before we see any money.”

The two-year stipulation is confounding some residents as other residents involved in the condemnation lawsuit have already received their $4,000. On top of that, the group contends the $2,000 in attorney’s fees doesn’t come close to the time and money residents have spent in the process.

“Some people have incurred $4,000 or more,” Jones said. “There was no good faith effort to come to a real value.”

Resident Thom Holder was also disappointed in the process and the settlement.

“It was so disrespectful the way we were treated,” Holder said. “A much larger figure was wanted.”

Jones said, “Many of the owners left the courthouse feeling re-victimized by Lake Oswego and the partnership.”

The settlement enables Lake Oswego to use its properties on Mapleton Drive for an upgrade of its existing drinking water treatment facilities.

The city of Lake Oswego has had a treatment plant and pipelines in the city of West Linn for 45 years. The city moved to expand the plant after joining with Tigard to upgrade Lake Oswego’s facilities to provide water to both communities. The water plant also provides a backup water supply to West Linn.

Lake Oswego owns four parcels on Mapleton Drive adjacent to its existing facilities but in a subdivision with plat restrictions. The plat conditions limit development to single-family homes and with fences no taller than 4 feet.

Lifting the plat restrictions from the four city-owned parcels will allow upgrading of the city’s water treatment facilities to modern safety standards, provide pedestrian connection between Mapleton Drive and Kenthorpe Way and provide additional open space for neighborhood use.

Nearly two years ago, Lake Oswego representatives came knocking on doors asking for signatures to lift the restrictions in exchange for $1,000. When residents balked, the sum was raised to $1,100. Residents still refused to sign.

In response, Lake Oswego filed proceedings of eminent domain against 50 Robinwood residents on Jan. 9, 2012.

According to Jeff Selby, former citizen information coordinator for LOT, residents in the Maple Grove plat were listed on the complaint. However, the complaint listed 50 properties, and there are 88 Maple Grove properties, including one owned by the city of West Linn.

“Thirty of the city’s neighbors, in the Maple Grove Plat, united together against this surprise attack to protect what we held most precious and to share the financial burden we knew to be in front of us,” states a Jan. 31 letter, from the group involved in the lawsuit, which was submitted as evidence for an upcoming city council hearing. “After two years, the stress and financial hardship became too much for many of our neighbors.”

This most recent settlement concludes the eminent domain proceedings.

The settlement, including attorney fees, was agreed to by property owners and city representatives and is subject to Lake Oswego City Council approval — as well as West Linn City Council approval of the conditional use permits for the treatment plant upgrade and new pipelines.

“There’s been a lot of pain and suffering. They’ve agreed to a settlement, and the time to pay the settlement is now,” Jones said. “A number of the neighbors did not want to agree to this appalling settlement, but did so to show Lake Oswego how true ‘good neighbors’ support and stand by each other in difficult times.”

“It seemed to me there are a handful of things they could do to heal the wounds of the last several years,” Holder said. “At some point, enough is enough.”

The West Linn City Council is set to make a final decision on the conditional use permits at its Feb. 11 meeting.

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