City should hit the brakes on creek study
It appears that good sense continues to hemorrhage from the West Linn City Council when it comes to decisions made by Councilors Cummings, Sakelik, and Relyea. The latest example is their recent decision to prioritize a $20,000 feasibility study for "daylighting" the Tannler stormwater drain pipe in the 2019 stormwater master plan.
Savanna Oaks Neighborhood Association's (SONA) president and secretary, Ed and Roberta Schwarz, have personally campaigned for the White Oak Savanna and now the daylighting of the Tannler stormwater drainage pipe (they call it Bernert Creek) for years at the expense of city taxpayers. Dealing with this issue has taken up an unmeasurable amount of city resources and now has the potentially for eating up $20,000 out of our priority capital projects in our 2019 stormwater plan. I find this completely irresponsible on the part of this majority council.
So...how did this overblown, colossally expensive water feature idea, originating from two residents, end up as a $20,000 feasibility study, given priority status, in our 2019 stormwater master plan?
I shudder to think. The short answer is that...the Schwartzes moved this idea through the city process; a process most residents in West Linn do not have time to engage in.
The point is, why have a study of something that many understand to be a bad
idea? The mayor, a water geologist, shared his concerns about the project's potential for negative environmental and fiscal impacts to the city. Even I, with no experience related to stormwater system engineering, know enough about our dry summers and rainy winters to recognize that when you want a creek, the creek will be dry; but when you don't want a creek, you will have a deluge of runoff from the hundreds of homes and impervious surfaces in the development above Tannler.
Rory Bialostosky testified before City Council on November 4th, opposing the study. He observed that if West Linn's additional 25,000 residents were aware that $20,000 had been budgeted to study a non-essential, aesthetic project, at the urging of a few neighbors, more objection would be stated. Rory commented that Council's approval of the study will be interpreted as a green light for the project. I am inclined to agree with Rory's assessment but his testimony fell on deaf ears. Hence, we are stuck with the decision of West Linn's trifecta.
So, how is it that these three councilors will not listen to reason? Why are they so eager to dismiss the reasonable advice of city staff and other members of council who possess relevant expertise? I regret that additional citizen comments weren't mobilized sooner but truthfully, would it have made a difference with these three? As a final argument, there are no funds for this type of project-should it ever be approved (the mayor estimated the project could cost the city upwards of a million dollars and would look nothing like a "creek").
The council needs to hear the message that we don't like the direction in which they are taking this matter. Only then can we recognize whether they serve the entire community, or just a vocal minority with special interests in their backyards.
Elizabeth Smolens is a resident of the Willamette neighborhood.
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