"We were all united on this right from the start."
That was how West Linn City Councilor Teri Cummings described the year-long process to construct a three-party intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin regarding future development of the Stafford area, which neared completion Monday, Dec. 10 when the West Linn council voted to approve the document. The vote followed Lake Oswego's vote of approval, which took place Dec. 4, and the Tualatin council also voted Dec. 10 but failed to approve the agreement.
"I feel very good about this three-way agreement we have," Cummings said. "Word by word, it was very carefully crafted with a lot of give and take on everybody's part, because all three cities have traditionally been interested in preserving the rural character of Stafford to the best extent possible."
This latest IGA is a companion to the five-party IGA between the three cities, Metro and Clackamas County that was signed last year. The five-party agreement was seen as a compromise, allowing Stafford to remain under Metro's preferred designation of urban reserve land — which can be incorporated into the urban growth boundary (UGB) within the next 50 years — while handing control of future development planning to the cities. As such, the three cities agreed to compose a second IGA outlining how they would work together during future development processes.
Stafford totals about 6,230 acres surrounded by West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin, and only a small percentage of that acreage is considered developable due to its challenging topography. Debate over the future of the area heated up in 2010, when Metro designated Stafford as urban reserve land.
The three cities and many residents said any development would likely cause significant problems related to infrastructure and transportation, while some owners of larger properties continued to push for urbanization. The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the Metro urban reserve designation in 2014; about a year later, Stafford residents approved a Community Vision Plan that called for the area around Borland Road to be developed as urban reserve, with the rest of Stafford in the area north of the Tualatin River falling under the "undesignated" category (and thus not open for dense development). That plan, however, did not change Metro's designation.
Debates continued until 2017, when newly-elected Clackamas County Board of Commissioners Chair Jim Bernard stated that solving the impasse was a top priority and the involved parties eventually signed the first IGA.
Specifically, the new IGA states that no city can complete a concept plan or apply for urban growth boundary expansion into any part of Stafford until the state's I-205 widening project has been designed and fully funded, with construction scheduled to begin in two years or less. It further states that the portion of Stafford north of the Tualatin River cannot be concept planned or requested for UGB expansion for at least 10 years.
"It takes the pressure off and allows everyone to move forward," Mayor Russ Axelrod said. "I think with this calming phase and period, it will help the whole process.
The IGA also states that at some point — no earlier than 2020 — the cities will amend the agreement to establish boundaries for each city's concept planning in Stafford. Further, the IGA does not prohibit cities from beginning planning for the area even before the I-205 widening project is funded and the 10-year moratorium for north Stafford has expired, so long as nothing is formally adopted.
If one city has evidence that a neighboring city's concept plan will have significant negative impacts on it, the IGA calls for the planning city to "specifically and meaningfully address the impacts."
"There's nothing in the agreement that absolves any party from having to go through the rigorous analysis and demonstration that any development anywhere can be done appropriately," Axelrod said.
The final vote was 4-1, with City Councilor Richard Sakelik accounting for the only "no" vote.
"I'm voting 'no' on principle," Sakelik said. "I think we could have done a bit better (protecting Stafford)."
Meanwhile, the Tualatin council — which is currently operating with just six members — had a 3-3 tie in its vote Monday. According to Axelrod, West Linn and Lake Oswego will vote next week on changes that were proposed by Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden.
"(I) expect both cities to reject them and stand by the original IGA," Axelrod said in a text message. "That will force Tualatin to either have a special meeting to revote, or Tualatin will have to take it up at (its) first meeting in January."
Council approves letter of intent for old city hall
The council also voted unanimously Monday to approve a letter of intent with the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition (WFHAC) regarding a proposed cultural center at the vacant old city hall building.
The letter commits the City to reserving $400,000 in general obligation (GO) bond funds for the project, and the City also agreed to work with WFHAC on a "due diligence" phase that includes a building assessment, cost estimates for improvements, parking evaluation and more. To augment a $100,000 grant from Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs, WFHAC expects to acquire an additional $150,000 through other grants to help fund the due diligence phase.
WFHAC envisions a first floor cultural center with exhibits and interpretive installations that could tell visitors about the riverfront area. The second floor of the building would be used for office space and community meetings.