Breaking: Washington County government gives constituents the finger

Carla Axtman

Back in October when the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development shoved back on Washington County's urban reserve designations, the problems cited with the mapping included a fundamental lack of real citizen participation in the Washington County process. That is to say, letting citizens in on the substantive discussions and giving them real access to the decision making process.

It would appear that neither the Washington County Commission or Metro have learned from their debacle.

Sources in Washington County inform me this afternoon that the County Commission, in concert with County staff, legal counsel, Metro Counselors and the LCDC director have hatched a new plan to suck up more land for urban reserves in an effort to offset the lost land. Not only are they planning to grab up land that has been hotly contested by those who live there (as well as other county residents), they're planning to do so without holding public hearings or seeking any public input.

A press release is set to be issued soon from Washington County which will declare their intent to:

a. Push forward without anymore public input or revisiting of the analysis process. Nor will there be any "extensive outreach and public information effort." It would seem that the citizens just muck up the process. How dare we actually want to have a say in what our government does, especially when they're planning how land is going to be used over the next 50 years. This is the view of both Metro and the County, I'm told.

b. Replace Urban Reserves by Cornelius (624 acres) and Forest Grove (28 acres) “acre for acre”, or as close as they can possibly get. The acreage in Cornelius was outright denied to Washington County by LCDC. The Forest Grove acreage was sent back for better justification. Apparently with the help of Metro and the LCDC Director, Washington County has found a way to justify all but 28 acres of the 508 acres in Forest Grove.

c. Land slated to replace the remanded acreage would be “type for type,”. This means that land remanded that was designated for employment land will be replaced with employment land, residential land for residential land, etc.

d. The replacement acreage will be contiguous to current Urban Reserves and won't be larger than the remanded land size.

e. Land set aside as Rural Reserves and Undesignated land could be changed in an effort to comply with LCDC’s decision. LCDC expressed concern in their ruling that Washington County had designated lands as Rural Reserves that were under no threat of urbanization. The County will revisit this.

So here's the thrust of what Washington County and Metro are attempting to do, with no further input from the public:

Change 625 acres north of the Sunset Highway, south of West Union from undesignated to Urban Reserve. 592 adjoining acres change from rural reserve to undesignated. In addition 900 acres between 185th and Cornelius Pass, further north than Germantown Rd and some west of Cornelius Pass, and convert it from rural reserves to undesignated.

The plan appears to be to shove the Intergovernmental Agreement between Washington County and Metro through the County on December 14. It's then set to sail through Metro on December 16.

So...what's the rush? Part of it might be that the next time Washington County can hold a public hearing on this stuff under their own rules is March. By that time, Greg Malinowski will be seated and he'll be much less compliant than the current occupant of the seat. The excuse being pushed by the incoming and outgoing Washington County Chairs, Andy Duyck and Tom Brian, respectively, is that the current folks have all been in the process and well, new people won't be able to do it right.

Duyck and Brian also claim that even though the whole Washington County map mess is subject to appeal, they should press forward because they need an agreement to look over. Seriously. This is what they're saying. They're also claiming that several property owners have offered their land for inclusion in the modified Urban Reserves-- and are once again becoming active for that purpose. So apparently if you want your land IN the Urban Reserves, you're all set. The County has your back. But if you don''re just not going have a say.

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    That's about how it looks to me. It takes huge amounts of unpaid personal time to fight this kind of stuff against people whose salaries are paid out of our taxes to mount these attacks on our quality of life. They talk a good game sometimes at Metro and at Washington County -- oh yes, we want to build "The Greatest Place" and we care about sustainability --but their actions speak differently.

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      Well said, Linda.

      I mean, good grief! Do the words "carbon footprint" mean nothing to these people? Do they not see ANY connection between land use, transportation, carbon emissions, farmland, re-localization, habitat and biodiversity protection... He-LLOOOO! Is anybody IN there???

      Carla, I'd be curious: is there a story to tell here, re: campaign contributions or cozy relationships with lobbyists? The way this whole reserves process went (WA CO, especially, but everywhere, really) seems so inside-the-beltway and fiddling while Rome burns (kind of like the CRC)...

      I mean, we're supposed to be the model for the entire country, and this is the best we can do?

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      Linda, Like you I've had a lot of experience with DLCD and local governments. They are broken and most don't even know how to engage in long-range thinking and planning. Certainly their supporters don't want either quality thinking or planning. I urge you to hang in there and keep fighting. Take a break over the holidays after getting a letter into the record that the law requires public hearings when making significant land use changes, then take them on in the new year.

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    Why should these guys be any different? I have been following Obama and the tax cuts. The worst of it is listening to his explanations of how he isn't doing exactly what we see he is doing.

    You're right we have lost trust, Linda. Thank you Carla for getting this out there.

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    Thank you Carla. Great post.

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    And today, Commissioner Desiree Strader had the arrogance to whine about the fact that the maps were in the hands of the public and she had to answer the call of an angry constituent. She even complained that she lost sleep over the matter!

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    A minor point here. Unless you're for zero growth, you're just arguing about how fast the entire valley floor gets covered in asphalt.

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    The following statement is from Metro Council President Carlotta Collette:

    Metro is committed to protecting the region's farms and forests and to providing good jobs now and in the future. That's why the Metro Council and its partners recently approved an historic proposal that protects more than 266,000 acres of rural land from development and provides about 28,000 acres to provide jobs and housing for our growing population during the next 50 years.

    After a very detailed review of our growth management and land protection strategy, the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission asked that our region reconsider just a few small areas in Washington County. On Monday, the Metro Council received a proposal, developed by the chairman and chairman-elect of Washington County, designed to address the LCDC's request.

    The Metro Council, at its work session today, briefly discussed this proposal. There is no support on the Metro Council for the proposed map.

    The Metro Council is committed to reaching agreement on a new urban and rural reserves map for Washington County and completing this effort in a timely, thoughtful and inclusive manner. At multiple phases throughout the urban and rural reserves process, the Metro Council has provided many opportunities for public input. The Metro Council will continue to provide opportunities for the public to comment on any reserves proposal it has under consideration before making final decisions.

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