Clackamas County approves athletic field land use application in rural area
Willamette United Football Club (WUFC) is one step closer to seeing its decade-long goal of building a youth sports facility in the West Linn-Wilsonville area realized. Monday, Nov. 18 Clackamas County Hearings Officer Fred Wilson granted WUFC's conditional use permit to build the athletic complex on 24 acres next to Southlake Church just outside West Linn.
"We are extremely pleased by the county's decision to approve our conditional use permit application," WUFC Executive Director Ray Nelson said. "The Willamette United board, staff and membership has worked extremely hard over the last five years to do things the right way so that this park will be a source of pride for our entire community."
The club began the land-use application process three years ago, and a busy three years it's been. After filing the conditional use permit application, WUFC had to get a conditional interpretation from the county clarifying that sports fields could be built in RRFF-5 (Rural, residential, farm, forest) zones. This decision is currently being contested by Borland residents who filed an appeal with the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), which could undo Monday's decision. The residents, who comprise the opposition to WUFC's plans for Southlake Park, argue that the interpretation, which came in 2017, was not properly noticed to nearby residents.
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.
The comprehensive decision process included thousands of pages of studies and surveys submitted by WUFC and a careful look from the hearings officer at all factors of the application. Prominent among these factors were how the transportation system of the area could withstand the traffic brought on by the new facility and how the complex would affect the character of the surrounding area.
"The I-205 and Stafford Road interchange is the only transportation facility that is in dispute as to whether there is adequate capacity to serve the proposed use," Wilson's decision states.
The decision then goes on to say that based on county and ODOT assessments and guidelines, "there is adequate capacity to serve the proposed use."
In determining whether the proposed use of the property would alter the character of the surrounding area, Wilson examined many aspects of the application, and in particular a couple of key concerns from the opponents of the application: light and noise.
Wilson found that the lights WUFC plans to use, which were certified by the International Dark Skies Association, will not significantly impact the surrounding properties.
As for the noise impact, Wilson seemed to agree with opponents that the noise during sporting events, particularly referees' whistles and cheering from spectators, could adversely impact nearby residents. However Wilson seems to have been won over by the club's plans to build sound barriers at strategic locations and only allow the use of special whistles.
"The applicant has agreed to use the recommended barrier design and to allow only the use of the Fox 40 Pearl Whistle (has low tone 90 decible pitch) at the proposed facility," Wilson cited from a sound study by WUFC. "Doing so will ensure that the whistle sounds from the proposed facility will always be 50 dBA or less at the nearest residences."
WUFC hopes for construction of Southlake Park to be completed in 2021, and more than a dozen local youth sports organizations have already said they would like to make use of the new facilities.
Now that the project has approval from the county, the soccer club will begin fundraising to see that its plans come to fruition. The project is expected to cost $14 million.
The club has already raised $600,000 for the project, but that was just for the permitting process, according to Nelson.
"To this date we haven't used $1 of registration dollars of the kids' money to do this project. We hosted four auctions," he said. "We started a tournament called the Mt. Hood Challenge and all of those funds have gone to our fields project."
WUFC has said this project, and the programs that will come with it, will benefit the whole community.
"All young athletes training at the park will be invited to become a part of our youth leadership and life skills program," Nelson said. "The program will offer structured community service projects, leadership training and real-life leadership mentors. This program will help the children in our community become the best they can be on and off the field."
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