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Councilor Ben West spoke in opposition of the letter, which concerned the future of the French Prairie area

At the Nov. 7 meeting of the Wilsonville City Council, disagreement arose as Councilor Ben West criticized a proposed letter from the council to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

The contested letter, introduced by Mayor Julie Fitzgerald at the beginning of the meeting, was a response to the county board's letter criticizing Metro's recommendation for a potential urban growth boundary expansion in Tigard, which would involve withdrawing 500 acres of land from the urban growth boundary in Clackamas County.

The board's letter proposed that Metro fund a study "to identify key employment and industrial land in Clackamas County, including land that may be in the reserve area, and develop a near-term strategy to bring industrial land into the Urban Growth Boundary."

The French Prairie area, located to the south of Wilsonville and the Willamette River, would meet those qualifications as potential industrial land. It is currently classified as a rural reserve area; if it were changed to urban reserve, it could be developed within the next 50 years. Some advocates in the region, particularly the Friends of French Prairie group, have pushed for the area to be protected as farmland.

While the county commission's letter did not identify French Prairie specifically, commissioners did discuss the area during their Oct. 25 meeting.

"You know the south of the river, I never quite understood that. I think there's considerable political pushback with the folks there, but it's flat land and it's by a transportation hub," Commissioner Martha Schrader said.

Fitzgerald disagreed.

"I worked with staff to compose a letter to the board of county commissioners indicating the city's strenuous disagreement, over time and continuing today, with this position on the French Prairie rural reserves," Fitzgerald said during the meeting.

Later in the meeting, West spoke in opposition of the Wilsonville letter. West said he received the letter earlier that morning and hadn't had the opportunity to fully review it, and that there had been no open discussion about the letter despite the fact that it was drafted on behalf of the entire council.

West said he supported the protection of French Prairie that the letter outlined, but felt that the letter didn't actually address the actions of the county board because the board's letter didn't specifically mention French Prairie. He worried that the tone of the letter would obstruct a future working relationship with the county.

"It seems like we're politically commenting on rhetoric, and not actually on the substance of what their actions were," West said.

West was elected to serve on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners in the Nov. 8 election.

The council opted to redraft the letter with this input, and will be presented again at tonight's City Council meeting.

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