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The 130-acre 'Opus property' is one of the dispute's primary sticking points



Photo Credit: MAP DATA COURTESY GOOGLE EARTH, 1000 FRIENDS OF OREGON  - This map illustrates the location of the 'Opus property,' one of the most hotly contested portions of Woodburn's UGB expansion proposal, as identified by the recently released mediation assessment report. The Opus property is depicted by the red overlay. Despite all parties expressing interest in mediation, an initial assessment into Woodburn’s urban growth boundary case identified “sharp divisions” between the players on key issues that could present significant challenges to such a course.

The mediation process — the latest step in the city of Woodburn’s long-running effort to expand its UGB by 979 acres — was recommended by representatives of the state Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD).

DLCD also agreed to front the costs of the initial assessment, which was conducted by Oregon Consensus, a state service and program of the school of government at Portland State University.

Oregon Consensus’ draft report was released last week.

After interviewing more than a dozen individuals representing parties on either side of the conflict, Oregon Consensus’ Turner Odell reported that all expressed support for the idea of mediation.

“The parties acknowledge that the current status quo is not ideal and that it is in everyone’s interest to find a path forward to an approvable UGB expansion,” he said. “The alternatives are costly in terms of both time and expense (including the potential for additional litigation).”

At the same time, there are significant barriers to a successful resolution through mediation. 1000 Friends, the opponent of record in the case, objects to the amount and location of the city’s proposal in regard to the approximately 400 acres tabbed for industrial use.

According to the report, the most notable division concerns one particular property, a 130-acre parcel identified as “the Opus property.”

Located north and west of Interstate 5 and bordering Butteville Road on the east, the land was described in a January 2011 release from 1000 Friends’ Craig Beebe as “the most controversial — and contested — portion of the expansion proposal.”

“The site, on the opposite side of the freeway from Woodburn proper, contains some of the state’s most valuable farmland,” Beebe said.

Odell’s report said that an option on the Opus parcel is held by Specht Properties Inc., a Beaverton-based commercial real estate development and property management firm. He noted that some interviewees mentioned Specht as a potential party to the mediation.

“When queried, most parties hesitated to include the developer as a participant ... although others noted that the process should include any party that might block or challenge an agreed-upon outcome,” he said.

Though the Opus property appeared to be the main sticking point, other potential roadblocks to a successful mediation included a perceived reluctance by other parties to adjust their position and a lack of trust between the parties.

Odell said that, presuming the mediation goes forward, a “crucial first step” will be the parties agreeing on an impartial mediator.

While the city proposed a straightforward process in which the parties suggest several potential mediators then take turns striking names off the list, Odell pointed out that approach could lead to each party simply striking the others’ suggestions.

Oregon Consensus’ general practice involves a process in which the parties work together more collaboratively to select a mediator.

Despite the challenges, Odell said he does believe mediation could be successful, provided the parties, one, take stock of their own interests and objectives; two, strive to understand the other parties’ interests; and, three, “seek solutions that meet multiple interests.”

Reached Monday, Jason Horton, Woodburn communications coordinator, said city staff is still reviewing the document and plans to provide feedback after the Thanksgiving holiday.

However, Mayor Kathy Figley did release a statement saying she was disappointed that developers, property owners and “others interested in improving our economy” were not interviewed as part of the assessment.

“I’m discouraged the (DLCD), Land Conservation and Development Commission and the court system has been unable to resolve this dispute, and it’s unclear to me that the draft assessment will lead to mediation, which we have been pursuing for months,” she said.

Horton said a discussion of the assessment has not been placed on the City Council’s agenda at this time.

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.

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