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As the Sherwood UGB decision looms, a dispute between landowners and the school district comes to a head.

METRO PHOTO - This aerial photograph of the Sherwood area was provided by Metro, the regional government.The Sherwood City Council likely will decide at Tuesday's council meeting whether the city will move forward with a request to Metro Council to expand the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) outside of Sherwood city limits, which would allow the city annex that area.

(Read more about the possible UGB expansion, and the City Council's ongoing decision-making process, here and here.)

But as decision time nears, a dispute between two key players — the Sherwood School District and Hillsboro-based developer Metropolitan Land Group (MLG) — is coming to a head. Last week, both the district and Metropolitan released statements that tell the year-long story of a legal dispute between the two entities.

Since passing its 2016 bond measure, the district has been planning to build a new high school on land that used to be located outside of the current Urban Growth Boundary. In 2017, Metro Council allowed the city to annex that parcel of land into its city limits.

The planned school site is owned by Metropolitan, meaning that the district must condemn the land — a common practice in which public entities can force private property owners to sell their land for public use.

According to the district's press release from last week, the district initially offered to pay MLG $120,000 per acre, a number commensurate with the land's privately assessed value.

However, because Metro Council could potentially expand the Urban Growth Boundary around Sherwood, the developer argued that it should get more for its land — potentially as much as $750,000. That's because once more land around the new high school site is incorporated into the Urban Growth Boundary, the developer would be free to plan homes on it; a lucrative endeavor in a booming real estate market like Washington County.

A Washington County jury sided with the school district's initial offer last December, but according to the district's press release, the legal battles did not stop there.

"At the same time MLG claims it wants to be SSD's partner, it has gone to court seeking to set aside the jury's December verdict on its land valuation," reads the release. "MLG sued the District to attempt to force SSD to pay for MLG's lawyers' fees from the December trial. MLG even appealed the City's decision to annex the school site, despite the fact that MLG is currently pushing to expand the City for its own land-speculation purposes."

Further complicating the issue is that, as the press release notes, the developer owns more land in the area that could potentially become part of Sherwood, and has been a major proponent of expanding the UGB around Sherwood.

The school district, meanwhile, is opposed to expanding the UGB. In fact, the school board passed a resolution two weeks ago urging the Sherwood City Council to drop its plan to submit a request to Metro this year, citing insufficient accommodations for the thousands of new students that a UGB expansion could eventually bring. That resolution lead to City Manager Joe Gall calling a special meeting last week.

At last Monday's City Council meeting, Jamie Morgan-Stasny, a planning manager with the developer, spoke in favor of expanding the UGB during a public comment period.

"I'm in support of the city seeking an Urban Growth Boundary in 2018," Morgan-Stasny said at the Monday, April 9, meeting. "We own around about a hundred acres near the new high school site. We're going to be invested in the community for many years to come, and I think there's an opportunity right now for us to partner together to figure out some solutions to concerns that the school district has."

The City Council declined to make a decision regarding the UGB request at that meeting. However, it is on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting, and the clock is ticking to make a decision.

Requests are due in May, and the city needs to adopt a Housing Needs Analysis into its Comprehensive Growth Plan before submitting a request — and that analysis would need to go through a 20-day appeal period.

At last week's meeting, several public commenters and council members voiced a hope that key stakeholders — namely, the developer, other property owners and the school district — could meet before Tuesday evening's meeting to try and come to an agreement. Both the district and the developer now are claiming that they attempted to set up a meeting last week, but that the other side did not follow through.

In a letter sent to the City Council last week, Metropolitan said that it is willing to share in the infrastructure costs of building the new high school — such as surrounding transportation improvements — and to drop all pending litigation against the school district, if the district agrees to meet with the developer and to come to a compromise.

As of Monday afternoon, there was no indication that a meeting between the two groups would take place before Tuesday's City Council meeting.

It's unclear how the dispute between the district and the developer will affect the City Council's ultimate decision regarding the UGB ask, if at all. But given the time crunch the Council is under, it is likely that tomorrow night will result in a final decision.

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