Photo Credit: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Stafford Hamlet resident Mike Miller stands in Stafford, an unincorporated area in Clackamas County between Lake Oswego, Tualatin and West Linn. Miller is considered a small-property owner in the area but helps manage much larger properties and offers tractor work in the area, long looked at for urban development to handle regional growth.The Stafford Hamlet may be in a holding pattern as a lawsuit presses forward regarding its designation as “urban reserve” land, but that doesn’t mean the board is sitting on its hands.

Starting this fall, hamlet board members will employ an all-hands-on-deck approach to finding out exactly what residents want for the unincorporated area’s future. After a series of town hall meetings in September and early October, the board will conduct a vote on two potential recommendations to Clackamas County: one to revert to Metro’s original designation of the entire Stafford Hamlet as urban reserve land, and the other allowing just the area around Borland Road to be developed as urban reserve, with the rest of Stafford falling under the “undesignated” category.

“Right now, since we’re in limbo because of the lawsuit, the vote comes down to, are we all in with the urban reserves — which is what Metro would like us to do — or does the Borland area become reserve and the rest undesignated?” Stafford Hamlet Board Chair Rick Cook said. “That’s what we’re voting on.”

According to Metro, urban reserves are lands that are outside current growth boundaries and are suitable for urban development in the next 40 to 50 years. Typically, the urban reserve designation is the precursor to being included in the urban growth boundary.

Beyond urban reserve, areas can also be classified as “rural reserve” or “undesignated.” According to Metro, rural reserve areas are protected from development for 50 years after their designation, while undesignated land is outside of the urban growth boundary and “of lower priority” for possible urban growth expansion.

The paradigm shifted Feb. 20, when the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed and remanded Metro’s original urban reserve designation from 2010. Along with 21 other petitioners, the city of West Linn claimed that the Land Conservation and Development Commission had misapplied legal principles in its review of Metro’s designations.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ultimately agreed, stating that “LCDC’s order is unlawful in substance in various respects” and that, in particular, the commission failed to explain why Stafford’s designation as urban reserve property was supported by evidence.

The LCDC met Monday to discuss the final judgment, which was officially handed down July 30. Further briefings from the involved parties will be scheduled this fall.

The Stafford area is nearly 4,000 acres and, of that, about 1,000 acres is considered developable — the majority centered on Borland Road. The land is a buffer of rolling hills and woodlands between Lake Oswego, West Linn and Tualatin.

West Linn and Tualatin have long said they do not wish to develop the Stafford area, citing concerns with infrastructure as well as transportation.

In the aftermath of the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling, the 2014 State Legislature passed a “grand bargain” bill that shifted more than 600 acres of land from urban to rural reserve. However, that bill applied only to Washington County.

“Washington County said, ‘We don’t agree with this, and we’re not going to go to Metro to get this solved — we’ll go to the state,’” Cook said. “It’s kind of like monopoly. That’s what Washington County did — they moved some things around and Metro was like, ‘Oh, ok, we’ll let you do that.’”

Clackamas County, according to Cook, will allow Stafford to make a recommendation of its own before engaging with the 2015 State Legislature. Since the remand in February, Cook said the hamlet has put a task force together and tried to keep all stakeholders involved.

“You’re not going to please everybody, but I think we’ve come a long way,” Cook said. “In order for the county to go to the state, they needed things by October.

Thus, the hamlet board has scheduled voting to take place during two town hall meetings — one on Oct. 9 and the other Oct. 11.

“We wanted to get at it early,” Cook said. “Where we actually have a say in some things.”

Contact Patrick Malee at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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