Oregon LCDC smacks down Washington County urban reserves

Carla Axtman

In a stunning (and sane) reversal, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development decided on Friday to remand two urban reserves designations to Washington County.

Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian:

The question of how and where the Portland area will grow in the next 50 years is two-thirds answered. The state Land Conservation and Development Commission approved unprecedented long-range planning for Multnomah and Clackamas counties Friday, but as expected stumbled over Washington County's contentious plan to allow urban development on prime farmland north of Council Creek near Cornelius.

The commission, or LCDC, directed Washington County to delete the 624-acre Cornelius section from its "urban reserves," the areas that will be considered first when the urban growth boundary is expanded. The decision was a victory for the Washington County Farm Bureau, 1000 Friends of Oregon and the state Department of Agriculture, who argued that land north of Council Creek is a textbook example of "foundation farmland," the best of the best.

Finally, after two years of being railroaded and bullied by Washington County government, local citizens concerns were heard and acted on. Certainly Washington County Commission wouldn't do it nor would Metro. It took the full-throated force of LCDC to finally push back on what not only was an extremely terrible urban reserves map, but an even worse public process for Washington County citizens.

Besides ordering the land around Cornelius to be taken out of urban reserves, LCDC also ordered Washington County to provide justification for an urban reserve designation for 508 acres of farmland north of Forest Grove. This area is also foundation farmland, so Washington County must demonstrate that development of this land over the next 50 years is absolutely vital. It remains to be seen if the County can make a reasonable demonstration.

Comments in the article from Cornelius Development and Operations Director Richard Meyer were petulant and telling.

From the O:

Cornelius, a city of about 11,000, believes expansion is essential. The city estimates it needs 4,000 jobs to balance its jobs-housing ratio and avoid being a bedroom community where residents commute elsewhere to work. Development and Operations Director Richard Meyer was deeply disappointed by the LCDC action, telling a Metro news service reporter that he hopes the deal falls apart.

This is how Washington County governments have managed this process all the way through. It's all their way, or no way at all. Because of this, Multnomah and Clackamas Counties have separate agreements with Metro and aren't tied to the fate of Washington County. If this deal falls apart, as Meyer seems to hope, then Multnomah and Clackamas still move forward. Washington will be forced back in to the 5 year urban growth boundary process with no reserves. It's hard to see how they'll get as much land urbanized in that process as they managed to get under the urban and rural reserves process, even with expunging the land north of Council Creek from urbanization.

It's also hard to see how Cornelius can justify the need for this land, given that four years ago the city received 60 additional acres in the urban growth boundary and have still failed to even annex it.

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    Carla - They didn't remand the 508 acre parcel in FG in full. The question was whether Council Creek's tributary in that area is a better buffer for urban growth than Purdin Road, and Washington County and Metro will now have to go back and re-examine that.

    For more information, including Richard Meyer's full quote, your readers can go to:


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    All I can say is YEESSSS!

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    Thanks for the wrapup, Carla. I was out canvassing in WashCo today, and I'm thrilled about this decision.

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    Good news. Adding land to the UGB reserve is something that should be done with a very conservative (in the traditional sense of that word) and careful hand.

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