The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) kicked a decision permitting local soccer club Willamette United Football Club (WUFC) to build an athletic facility in the Stafford area back to Clackamas County.
After a three-year land use hearing process, a Clackamas County hearings officer granted a conditional use permit late last year for WUFC to build its $14 million sports complex, Southlake Park, on 24 acres next to Southlake Church on Borland Road.
But opposition from Borland residents and a review from LUBA sent the decision back to the county in a ruling announced June 8.
Some residents who live near the site of the proposed facility have fought WUFC throughout the land use process, arguing that the facility would be too loud, bring too much traffic and cause too much light pollution, altering the rural character of the area.
One of these residents, Mitch Jones, filed two LUBA appeals against the similar use decision and conditional use permit granted by the county.
Before receiving the conditional use permit, WUFC needed a similar use determination from the county saying that their proposals for the site were similar to the uses allowed in a Rural Residential Farm Forest (RRFF5)-zoned area.
On June 8, LUBA agreed with the county hearings officer that WUFC's plans weren't enough to substantially impact the character of the area, citing the lengths the club had gone to in its plans to minimize noise and light impact.
However, LUBA found the county committed procedural errors by failing to inform Borland residents of both the similar use and conditional use applications, as required by the Clackamas County Zoning Ordinance (CCZO). For this, LUBA is sending both decisions back to the county.
"We remand the decision to the county to provide petitioners with the notice required by the CCZO, which will provide petitioners with the opportunity, for the first time, to present to the planning director their arguments regarding why the proposed sports facility is not similar to a Recreation Facility," reads the LUBA ruling on the similar use decision.
WUFC's plans for Southlake Park include three lit artificial turf soccer, football and lacrosse fields, an indoor training field house, offices for the club, a concession stand, a training room, a walking/jogging path and a playground.
"We are still extremely confident that we will get the final permit but we will have to go through some more process with the county," WUFC Executive Director Ray Nelson said following the LUBA ruling. "We've been working toward new fields for years so another six months isn't going to hurt us."
The proposed Southlake Park facility has been a controversial issue for the community in the past year. Several hundred people have expressed support for the complex due to the need for more sports fields in the West Linn-Wilsonville area.
Other members of the community, led by a group called Keep Borland Rural, voiced strong opposition. One of the their principal arguments centers on the detriments from the traffic caused by the facility, something they fear is already an issue if the West Linn-Wilsonville School District follows through with its plans to build a bond-approved middle school down the road on Dollar Street.
Still, Nelson and WUFC are confident in its value to the community.
"This project will be a huge asset for the community and it will impact the lives of thousands of children in positive ways for generations to come," Nelson said. "That's worth being patient for."
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.