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Citing frustrations with process, WL officials did not participate in meeting hosted by Stafford Land Owners Association

TIDINGS FILE PHOTO - Stafford's rolly-polly topography has cities concerned about the cost of infrastructure needed for more building. Stakeholders in the development of the Stafford Hamlet met for an informational meet-and-greet hosted by the Stafford Land Owners Association and Borland Neighborhood Association at Athey Creek Middle School last Wednesday to learn about the history and potential future of the rural community which shares borders with West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin.

Officials with Clackamas County, Metro and the three cities were in attendance to talk with residents of the hamlet regarding how they view the development of Stafford playing out following the five-party intergovernmental agreement (IGA) signed in 2017 and the new three-party IGA the cities are currently working to complete.

"I feel this area is ripe for a plan everyone can agree on," said John LaMotte, Lake Oswego City Councilor. "This is the time to get the three-party agreement done and put meat on the bones of the five-party agreement."

That IGA allowed Stafford to remain under the designation of urban reserve land — which can be incorporated into the urban growth boundary (UGB) within the next 50 years — while handing control of development planning to the cities. The three-way IGA would nail down how the cities would work together to plan the urbanization of the Stafford area.

One of the three cities — West Linn — did not participate in the discussion Nov. 28. West Linn City Councilor Rich Sakelik attended the meeting, but sat in the audience (councilors from other cities sat at designated tables) and did not speak.

The lack of input from West Linn was deliberate. As Mayor Russ Axelrod put it in an email to a West Linn community member — which was included in the public record as part of a West Linn City Council work session Dec. 3 — the meeting was "hastily arranged and scheduled by (Clackamas County Commission Chair Jim) Bernard without ever contacting the three cities as to their interests and schedules. ... I spoke and met with key hamlet folks before the SLOA meeting and they thanked me for not attending the meeting."

Axelrod added that he'd emailed the Clackamas County Commission to tell them why he wasn't attending, but that information was not passed along to those who were at the meeting. He also described some of the attendees as "speculative landowners" in a text message to a West Linn resident.

Axelrod did not respond to a request for comment from the Tidings.

Scott Fregonese, a West Linn native and principal planner at urban planning firm Fregonese Associates, gave a presentation during the informational meeting outlining some of the previous plans that have been laid out for the Stafford area in the past and what those plans might look like in the future. Fregonese was followed by Gregg Weston, longtime Stafford resident and chief engineering manager at 3J Consulting who outlined the work and investment it would take to properly develop Stafford.

Much of Stafford sits on a steep grade, which severely restricts the area of developable land and makes bringing infrastructure such as roads, sewer, stormwater and other utilities difficult.

Despite that, Weston said the developable area in Stafford is approximately 1,452 acres — a project that would take about $2.7 billion to complete infrastructure. Weston suggested that cost could be split 60/40 between developers and the three cities.

Within that growth scenario, Fregonese said that preserving open space, protecting tree canopy and preventing the three cities from growing into each other were three major points to keep in mind.

According to Weston — and agreed upon by just about every official in the room — a traffic impact analysis describing how traffic patterns might be influenced by incremental development in different areas of the hamlet would dictate proposed improvements to infrastructure. It's also widely held by planners, engineers and government officials from the three cities that any widening and improvement to Interstate 205 would need to be completed before development could take place within Stafford.

Where many disagree, seemingly, is when the concept plans from each of the three cities need to be completed — before or after an I-205 project — and whether or not to put a 10-year moratorium on any development to allow time to see how things play out.

A short presentation was also given hamlet board members Bill Markt and Rich Fiala regarding the history of the Stafford area and how its residents see themselves playing a part in future development.

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden took the floor to during the final portion of the meeting with Amy Chase-Herman of Clackamas County mediating a Q&A session.

Ogden — whose term expires Jan. 1 after more than 20 years in office — urged residents of Tualatin and those of Stafford Hamlet closest to the Tualatin border to lobby the Tualatin City Council in favor of preserving the bucolic setting they're accustomed to.

"If you live in Tualatin near the border of Stafford and you like what you see now out of your back window, lobby your council to take jurisdictional control," Ogden said.

Members of the audience were allowed to pose questions to the planners, engineers and officials who had taken time to speak to the crowd and many of the questions asked to clarify specific points of how the three-way IGA would work, what kind of public input opportunities would take place in the future and how the three cities plan to mitigate the effects development upon each other.

Many of the answers to those questions pointed to the three-party IGA currently being considered by Tualatin, West Linn and Lake Oswego as their city planners, managers and attorneys work together to complete that agreement.

The Lake Oswego City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to authorize Mayor Kent Studebaker to sign the IGA. West Linn's vote is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 10.

— Reporter Patrick Malee contributed to this story.

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