Metro approves urban and rural reserves after closed door meeting

Carla Axtman

Sources tell me that the Bragdon-Brian-Duyck-Collette meeting was behind closed doors, out of the view of the public. Further, no persons in opposition to the map additions were in the meeting, allowed to present the other side.

Recently here at Blue Oregon, I published a post about Washington County shoehorning more land into urban reserves after their process was completed and sent it off to Metro for approval. I encouraged folks to write to their Metro Councilors to express objection to this egregious case of bad faith dealings with citizens of the region.

Many of you did. I know that Metro Councilors were getting emails and calls.

Unfortunately, last Thursday Metro approved the additional land anyway. What's odd however is the way that they did it.

Brad Schmidt, The Oregonian:

The backdrop for Thursday's decision was a reversal by Councilor Carlotta Collette, who seven days earlier voted against a proposal from Washington County to remove a 129-acre parcel from rural protection. Washington County officials said the land – owned by the Peterkort family and located north of U.S. 26 and Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus – needed an urban designation to ensure progress at the proposed North Bethany development.

The 129 acres represents a mere fraction of total land studied and designated by leaders from Metro and Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. Land eligible for future growth –28,615 acres – is called urban reserves. Rural reserves, free from development, total 266,954 acres.

Collette last week emphasized that she wanted to vote for the larger agreement but said she was "uncomfortable" with Washington County's late request. Her decisive swing vote essentially blocked the broader deal.

But she later met with Metro President David Bragdon, and Washington County Chairman Tom Brian and Commissioner Andy Duyck, then changed her mind.

Sources tell me that the Bragdon-Brian-Duyck-Collette meeting was behind closed doors, out of the view of the public. Further, no persons in opposition to the map additions were in the meeting, allowed to present the other side.

So basically, the largest land-use mapping approval in recent history came down to a private meeting, hidden away from the public.

I'm hearing that one of the reasons Metro pushed this forward are concerns about bad publicity should it fail. Two years and millions of dollars have been sunk into this thing. Washington County has continually threatened to pull out of the 50-year urban and rural reserves mapping if they don't get their way on every piece of land and every rule decision. Clearly Metro believes this to be a legitimate threat.

Metro should not be on the losing end of this Chicken game, however. Washington County won't pull out of the process, no matter how loud they squawk. If they did, they'd be forced to go back to the old Urban Growth Boundary process, which is based on soil quality. The UGB process would restrict the county greatly in how much land they could put into urbanization. Tom Brian wants these huge tracts of foundation farmland to become the next Intel, or Nike or SolarWorld. This is his legacy and he's not going to walk away from it. The players at Metro have continually scrambled to keep Washington County IN the process. The smart thing to do would have been to show them the door.

In fact, Metro could have done just that and very likely met the legal requirements laid out by the legislature for the amount of land set aside for urban reserves. If they'd adopted a 40, rather than a 50 year plan, there would be enough land between Clackamas and Multnomah to meet the statutory requirement.

It's off to LCDC now--last chance to make substantive changes before the process is completed. Hopefully they'll be smarter about this than Metro and refuse to given in to Washington County's empty threats.

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    As long as there wasn't a quorum present, meetings out of the public view are completely legitimate and happen all the time in politics. Often times, it can be difficult - if not impossible - to have real, genuine discussions on sensitive issues during an open, public session. Negotiations and deal-making can be difficult, contentious, and time-consuming. I'm of the opinion that not every meeting needs to, or should be, in front of the public for a myriad of reasons. As long as the group wasn't breaking any open meeting laws, then I don't see a problem.

    On the other hand, I do understand where you are coming from. There does exist a usually negative perception, or feelings of involvement by the public, when such meetings take place.

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    That should say: "...feelings of 'uninvolvement' by the public..."

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    Carla, this is really disconcerting. I am very disappointed.

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