'Glad this is behind us,' West Linn mayor says; next move is up to three cities to come up with concept plan for unincorporated area.

It took longer to write than the Declaration of Independence, but in the end, Clackamas County, three cities and the Metro Council signed an agreement on how they will shape the future of the Stafford urban reserve.

Officials from the five governments observed the occasion Wednesday (June 28) by signing a poster-sized copy of the agreement and drinking a toast of sparkling apple juice.

The agreement broke a looming impasse between the county — which was being pressed to reaffirm the 6,230-acre area as an urban reserve open to development in 50 years — and Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn. The cities argued that extension of streets and other services into the area, much of which is hilly, would be too costly.

"It provides assurances that development in any form in any part of Stafford will be based on the vision of our citizens and the residents of the hamlet," West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod said before he signed.

He added: "I am glad to see this behind us."

The agreement commits the cities to come up with a city concept plan, which will determine the timing of development of any part of the area that goes inside Portland's urban growth boundary.

Among the other city signers were Mayors Kent Studebaker of Lake Oswego and Lou Ogden of Tualatin.

Stafford was the largest area Metro sought to resolve with Clackamas County to complete its decade-long process of designing urban and rural reserves.

"The purpose of the plan is to give certainty to the agricultural community, and to those developing urban institutions," Metro Council President Tom Hughes said before he signed. "Now that we've adopted reserves in Clackamas County, we can use them for their intended purposes."

Carlotta Collette was a new member of the Metro Council when Judie Hammerstad, then Lake Oswego mayor, advised her that the question of Stafford would occupy much of her time.

"It was 10 years of trying to provide assurances to the people who live in Stafford that they can guide their future," she said. "At the same time, we gave assurance to the cities that if and when they need to grow, they have a process for working with the people who live in Stafford."

Jim Bernard unseated an incumbent last fall to become Clackamas County board chairman — and one of his key pledges was to resolve the status of Stafford within the first months of his new four-year term.

Bernard had been the lone holdout when, in 2015, a majority of the board declined to move ahead on Stafford until consideration was given to removing rural-reserve designations in three areas, including 600 acres south of Wilsonville and south of the Willamette River.

But two board incumbents lost to Bernard and Ken Humberston, and on Jan. 17, the new board set in motion a reaffirmation of Stafford that was called for in a 2014 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

It was a day of triumph for Bernard, who signed for the county.

"But a lot of work remains to be done with the cities negotiating how they are going to work with each other to move this forward with the hamlet and the community planning organizations," he said.

The agreement emerged from some suggestions put forth by Humberston and County Administrator Don Krupp.

Dave Adams, vice chair of the Stafford hamlet, had urged the commissioners to reject the revised findings that reaffirmed the original decision by the county and Metro to designate Stafford as an urban reserve.

Still, Adams said after the ceremony, the result was much better than if development plans had been rushed through two decades ago without participation either from the cities or Stafford residents.

"I have neighbors who are disappointed with the outcome. But I am personally delighted," he said.

"I had hoped for a different outcome. But in the end, there is justice in this outcome. We are where we should have been at the very beginning. This is a decision that the cities and the residents should be making, not speculators or developers.

"I think it's win for the citizens, but even more, a win for Tom McCall and Senate Bill 100," referring to the governor who advocated the 1973 law setting statewide planning standards, the first of which is citizen participation.

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