Oregon City candidates divided on annexations, growth
Former Oregon City Commissioner Rocky Smith's campaign to unseat incumbent Commissioner Brian Shaw could be seen as a referendum on annexation and development, particularly the development at Wesley Linn Park.
While the city had previously asked voters to sign off on annexation proposals, Smith was disappointed to see Shaw side with the majority of City Commission in approving annexations of new property into city limits without citywide votes to allow for the development of housing subdivisions.
As for the development at the park property in particular, voters had twice voted down proposals to build a subdivision at Wesley Linn. Last year Shaw joined a 4-1 vote of City Commission in approving a nine-house subdivision at the park with a plan to build only 12 feet of roadway in park property, unlike the proposals to encroach on the park with 50 feet of roadway that were rejected by voters.
Last month Shaw took a $1,000 campaign contribution from the same West Linn-based development company that planned the subdivision at Wesley Linn, in addition to more than $2,000 more from various private citizens so far. Unlike Shaw, Smith has pledged to spend less than $3,500 on his own campaign.
Beside the fact that Wesley Linn had a longstanding easement to use the property, Shaw said he voted for the revised plan because he remembered from his time on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee that it had always been the city's intent to allow for greater access on the north end of park through the developer's construction of a sidewalk.
Shaw has proven his willingness to vote against the City Commission majority, in one memorable occasion voting with Smith in a 3-2 decision in 2016 to remove a whitewater park from the Willamette Falls planning process. Shaw and Smith unsuccessfully tried to keep the proposal alive.
Whether to allow citywide votes of citizens to approve annexation plans is a complicated issue, and the majority of the current city commissioners say their hands are tied by a 2016 bill out of the Oregon Legislature bypassing such votes if property owners and city officials agree to the wisdom of an annexation.
But Smith says that Oregon City should have at least joined other cities with charter provisions to refer annexation proposals to voters in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2016 law.
"The City Commission should be fighting some of this with the state," Smith said. "The current commission is not really being advocates for the voters in this sense."
Smith further said that the city could be doing more to address citizens' concerns regarding livability.
"Sometimes I don't think that conversation is happening, or it isn't happening enough," Smith said.
Asked if he felt he was ignoring citizens concerns about livability, Shaw said that city commissioners have a responsibility to protect current residents, and to balance that with allowing for future growth and new residents.
Shaw and Smith say they support the urban growth boundary (UGB) and want to make sure that property owners follow all of the rules to make their properties eligible for annexation into the city. In a separate interview at Willamette Falls Media Center with Tom Geil, Shaw acknowledged his belief in the justice of the state's new law, but more than that he believes that the city should follow the new regulations to bypass citywide votes on annexation proposals due to the need to create a "land supply" so that not all houses in Oregon City are $500,000 or more.
"I'm trying to make sure we do infill as much as possible, if that's annexations, the conversion of an old cement plant to the Cove project or something on the landfill again. That keeps us from moving the UGB and losing more farm and forest land," Shaw said. "I know it's in people's backyards, but they all are."
Watch the interviews with the candidates here:
Both candidates have extensive civic experience as longtime volunteers and are well qualified for a position on City Commission:
Shaw, 68, was one of the founding members of the city's Historic Review Board, where he served for 10 years starting in 1980 to consider the historic compatibility of permits, ordinances and public-infrastructure proposals. In addition to serving on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for 10 years, he volunteered on the Planning Commission for two years, the Budget Committee for two years and Urban Renewal Commission for four years. He was on the advisory committee to help plan for the expansion and renovation of the city's public library.
As a building designer in his spare time, Shaw sees a need for providing lands in a controlled manner for citizens to have a home to raise their families in Oregon City.
Shaw and his wife have lived in Oregon City for 43 years and have raised their kids here. He is active in the Oregon City Optimist Club and often volunteers at community events.
Shaw has been a longstanding supporter of the industrial park near Clackamas Community College as part of the Beavercreek Concept Plan to create family-wage jobs and internship opportunities for students at nearby CCC and Oregon City High School. As a field engineer servicing accounts like Oregon City's Benchmade Knife Company, he'd like to create more well-paying manufacturing jobs locally so others can both work and live in the city.
Smith is an OCHS art teacher who served on City Commission from 2009-16. He has worked as a head counselor for the Oregon City Parks and Recreation Department in addition to working at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce.
Smith, 41, helped lay the groundwork for library and police station building plans as a city commissioner. He voted against Shaw on a plan to expand the Public Works facilities at Waterboard Park (the city has now found what it sees as a more suitable location for Public Works on the Hilltop).
During his tenure on the City Commission, Smith advocated that the city set aside funds for restoring the Ermatinger House, and he is now proud that the city runs the "historic treasure" as a house museum and tourist draw.
Smith encouraged that all the neighborhood associations become active in the city, and helped restart the Tourism Council. With his father retired from the police department, Smith advocated that the city hire seven new officers and switch over to a 4-10 shift for additional coverage.
UPDATE: Smith has filed new forms with the state saying that his campaign will be spending between $750 and $3,500, and this article online has been updated to reflect that.