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Candidate blames decision on politics; city accepts donation of 31-acre forest

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Willamette Falls Locks Commission has been working for years to come up with a plan to reopen the locks.

This article was updated from its original version

Wilsonville City Councilor Ben West denounced Gov. Kate Brown's decision not to approve his nomination to the Willamette Falls Locks Commission (WFLC) at a work session Monday, April 15.

West has been a steadfast critic of Brown — particularly regarding Oregon's foster care system — and believed Brown denied the nomination for political reasons.

"As a foster child advocate, it is no secret that during the election cycle I was openly critical of the governor's failed leadership in taking meaningful action to address Oregon's broken foster care system," West said during the work session. "The message that the governor is sending is that if you oppose me or bring a different point of view, then I will shut you out of the Democratic process. That is petty and vindictive."

Mayor Tim Knapp was quick to clarify that West's statements did not reflect the City of Wilsonville's view.

"I feel compelled to make a comment at this point that the city has a long and much appreciated collaborative relationship with the administration in this state and that we as a city intend to continue that. Councilor West has expressed his personal views, but those are not to be construed as the views of the council or the city as a whole," he said at the work session.

Kate Kondayen, who is the deputy communications director in the governor's office, said in an email that Brown "looks at the overall composition of a board or commission and takes balance into account, as well as diverse backgrounds and experiences. The practice of evaluating a wide pool of candidates is standard practice, and she asked the City of Wilsonville for additional recommendations for that seat in order to have a wider pool for consideration."

Wilsonville is one of three city governments that has a representative on the locks commission, which is an advisory commission that is developing a plan for reopening the Willamette Falls Locks. The city plans to nominate a new representative to the WFLC but did not give any indication at the meeting of whom they are considering.

Former Council President Scott Starr served on the commission before his term ended in 2018 and the City subsequently nominated West to fill the position in January. West said he was open to an appointment to a different regional commission to lighten the load of other councilors.

During the City Council meeting that evening, the city also approved a resolution to contribute $14,000 to Clackamas County for the management of the locks commission.

City receives land donation

The city also accepted the donation of a 31-acre forest from ScanlanKemperBard (SKB), a real estate merchant bank based in Portland, at the council meeting.

According to SKB, the land located in the Parkway Woods Business Park has a property value of $3.6 million. And, as stated in the city council meeting packet, SKB donated the property because "it can serve no useful purpose for their business due to the land use restrictions and donating it to the city will save SKB approximately $60,000 in property taxes."

During a work session April 1, Wilsonville Natural Resources Manager Kerry Rappold said the area was heavily logged in the 1950s but has since regenerated, that oak, Douglas fir and ash trees can now be found there and that it has few invasive species.

He also said the city could add walking trails to the area and attempt to connect it to Canyon Creek Park. The city will decide whether to add the trails and the alignment of the trails at a later date.

"It's a really unique natural area in terms of the city. There's probably only one other forest that's comparable and that's in Villebois," Rappold said.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated who is elligible to represent Wilsonville on the locks commission. It has to be a member of Wilsonville's governing body.

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