Tualatin considers joining West Linn in appealing case

by: SUBMITTED MAP - The Stafford triangle consists of nearly 4,000 acres and lies between Tualatin, West Linn and Lake Oswego.Despite being knocked a blow last week, West Linn is not giving up the fight against development in the Stafford triangle.

In a multi-year battle to appeal the designation of Stafford as an “urban reserve,” the cities of Tualatin and West Linn were informed Aug. 14 that their appeal to the Land Conservation and Development Commission was rejected. The LCDC reviews decisions made by the regional governing body Metro and Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties when they mapped areas for future urban growth.

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

The Stafford area is nearly 4,000 acres, of that, about 1,000 acres are considered developable. The land is a buffer of rolling hills and woodlands between Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn.

Some owners of larger parcels in Stafford would like to sell and develop their properties, as they believe the land is no longer sellable as viable farmland. Stafford Hamlet residents, Clackamas County and Metro held a series of forums starting last fall to discuss potential urban growth in the area.

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

“Consistently, the (West Linn) city council has heard from residents that they do not want Stafford urbanized,” said West Linn Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt.

The two cities appealed the designation back in July 2010, and it has been in the appeal process ever since. The appeal contested the process in which the designation was made; stating the process communicated by Metro was not followed.

According to attorney Jeff Condit, who is representing Tualatin and West Linn, “Metro misconstrued the requirements under the urban reserves statute.”

Other entities, such as the cities of Cornelius and Hillsboro, 1,000 Friends of Oregon, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Coalition of a Prosperous Region, also appealed the designation for a variety of reasons.

Condit argued in the appeal that overall, Stafford is “unsuitable for urbanization under virtually all of the factors” that urban reserves are supposed to meet.

West Linn especially took issue with potential plans for the Borland Road area. Part of Stafford nearest West Linn, the Borland area, was called “suitable for intense mixed-use development” in Metro’s plan, while other areas of Stafford “will have little or no development.”

The West Linn City Council called a special meeting Monday to discuss the LCDC ruling. Unanimously, the council agreed the city should continue its pursuit to appeal the designation to the state court of appeals.

“We have no reason to go along with that decision,” Councilor Teri Cummings said. “The state, the county, Metro, have no authority to force us to provide services.”

Lake Oswego has sat out in the appeal process. In the past, officials from the three surrounding cities have voiced opposition to urbanization based on the high cost of providing sewer, drinking water and other infrastructure to Stafford.

But a split Lake Oswego City Council in 2010 voted against filing an objection, which would have allowed the city to stay involved as the state decides whether to accept the land-use plan.

Most recently, Lake Oswego is seeking to move the urban growth boundary line to build a new tennis center on what is known as the Rassekh property, an almost 10-acre site across Stafford Road from Luscher Farm.

In exchange for a nod of support for the proposal from the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, the Lake Oswego City Council recently approved an agreement calling for the city to participate in planning the Stafford and Borland areas.

The Tualatin City Council is expected to address the rejection during its Aug. 27 regular meeting.

The appeal is now in an expedited process, with a decision expected by the end of this year or early next year.

If the state court of appeals upholds the appeal, then Metro and the county could be directed to reset the designation process and start all over again following the correct processes, according to Condit.

“It would be a redo, which would be another long process,” he said.

If the appeal is rejected, then Tualatin and West Linn would have the chance to make an argument for the state supreme court to hear the case.

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