Locals oppose Willamette United's planned sports complex
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 Clackamas County by Willamette United Football Club (WUFC), which applied for a land use permit to build a new sports facility next to Southlake Church on Borland Road in West Linn. At a land use permit hearing in July, Clackamas 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, WUFC's permit plans in the application met 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.
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/ jogging path and a playground. These plans don't fit the rural character of the area cited just south of I-205, 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 using the facility, as well as the stadium lights, will disrupt the rural tranquility of the area.
"We don't even have street lights 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 submitted by WUFC to Clackamas County found that there would be minimal impact from the lights, said WUFC Executive Director Ray Nelson. He also said the club's plans for lighting received an International Dark Skies (a nonprofit aiming to reduce light pollution) certification.
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.
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 which Keep Borland Rural does not agree with.
Overall, Jones and Mast argue, the plans for Southlake Park depict an urban facility, far from the character of the Rural Residential Farm Forest (RRFF5)-zoned area.
As part of Metro's urban reserve (land banked for further development within 50 years), Borland 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 RRF5," she said.
Mast and Jones don't dispute the value of youth sports or deny the need for fields; they just don't want them next door to their property.
"I have coached hundreds of boys' and girls' basketball, baseball and soccer games. I understand and support the value of youth sports," Jones said. "But,this Borland Road rural location is not the right place for such a major, private world-class sports facility as proposed."
But suitable alternative location for WUFC might not be possible to find. Nelson said WUFC spent 10 years looking for land in the West Linn-Wilsonville area to build this before finding and making a 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 ruled in favor of WUFC, there is still one thing that could stop Southlake Park in its tracks.
In 2017, WUFC applied for a conditional land use interpretation, in which the county hearings officer ruled that artificial turf fields and an indoor training facility were acceptable uses in a RRFF5 zone. Without this ruling, the Southlake Park would never have reached the stage its currently at.
Members of Keep Borland Rural have appealed the rulingl with the state's Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) which, if the board reverses the decision, could unravel everything WUFC has done in the past two years to get Southlake Park approved.
"This county decision happened without any public notice by the county," Jones said. "Our retained land use attorney reports that notice is required by the county and notification is required to landowners within 500 feet (Jones said his property is 300 feet from where Southlake Park would be).
Jones believes that if Borland residents had been allowed to make their case before the 2017 interpretation, it would not have been approved.
Glasgow said the procedure for conditional use interpretations requires notifying Community Planning Organizations, not individual neighbors. He said all CPOs were notified and the Stafford/Borland area CPO did not give input on the interpretation.
Jones said he doesn't expect a ruling on the LUBA appeal until early 2020.
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