Neighbors say Stafford sports facility doesn't fit rural area
Horse ranches, homes, Christmas tree farms, pumpkin patches, vineyards, churches, vegetable patches and a large-scale athletic facility.
Does the last listed item fit with the rest? That's the question Clackamas County planners are trying to answer, and the question to which Keep Borland Rural (a group of residents in the Borland area) adamantly answers "no."
The question was posed to county officials by Willamette United Football Club, which applied for a land use permit to build a new sports facility next to SouthLake Church on Southwest Borland Road, about 2½ miles east of Tualatin and just south of Interstate 205.
At a land use permit hearing in July, county planners explained that for an application to be recommended for approval, the plans for use in the permit application need to meet six criteria.
According to Clackamas County, Willamette United's permit plans in the application meet five of the criteria. The sixth — whether the proposed use of the land will alter the character of the surrounding area — is the one Keep Borland Rural is currently disputing.
Disputed impact of stadium lights
WUFC's plans for the facility, called Southlake Park , include three lit artificial turf fields for soccer, football and lacrosse, an indoor training field house, offices for the club, a concession stand, a training room, a walking and jogging path, and a playground.
These plans don't fit the rural character of the area, argues Mitch Jones, a Keep Borland Rural member and horse rancher whose property sits next to the site of the proposed Southlake Park.
Jones says the facility will bring too much traffic, and that noise from the athletes and the stadium lights will disrupt the rural tranquility of the area.
"We don't even have streetlights here, and now we could possibly be living next to three lit-up fields with stadium lighting," said Julie Mast, another Keep Borland Rural member.
A photometric study Willamette United submitted to Clackamas County found that there would be minimal impact from the lights, according to the club's executive director, Ray Nelson. He also said the club's plans for lighting received a certification from International Dark Skies, a nonprofit aiming to reduce light pollution.
As for noise impact, Nelson said a sound study found that noise from the fields would be less impactful to nearby residents than noise from I-205, which is about 100 feet from the property line of the fields.
However, Clackamas County planner Clay Glasgow said noise and light from the athletic facility could still impact residents in the area.
Area slated for future development
Clackamas County transportation engineering staff already ruled that the transportation infrastructure of the area is adequate to safely support the additional traffic the complex could bring, a ruling with which Keep Borland Rural does not agree.
Overall, Jones and Mast argue, the plans for Southlake Park depict an urban facility, far from the character of the rural residential farm/forest zoning of the area.
As part of Metro's urban reserve — land banked for further development within 50 years — Borland Road should see these types of developments further in the future, not today, Mast argued.
"I'm not naive in knowing that we don't live way out in Beaver Creek or something; however, it's still zoned RRFF5," she said, referring to the county's land use designation for the area.
But suitable alternative location for Willamette United might not be possible to find. Nelson said the club spent 10 years looking for land in the area to build its facility before making its deal with SouthLake Church.
Clackamas County has taken input from people on both sides of the issue and is supposed to make a final decision on the land use application in mid- to late October.
Even if the land use hearings officer rules in favor of Willamette United, there is still one thing that could stop Southlake Park in its tracks.
In 2017, Willamette United applied for a conditional land use interpretation, in which the county hearings officer determined that artificial turf fields and an indoor training facility were acceptable uses in a RRFF5 zone. Without that ruling, the Southlake Park would never have reached the stage its currently at.
Members of Keep Borland Rural have appealed the ruling with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. If the board reverses the county's decision, it could unravel everything Willamette United has done in the past two years to get Southlake Park approved.
Jones said he doesn't expect a ruling on the LUBA appeal until early 2020.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.