Washington County: More details on the backroom dealing

Carla Axtman

[Update: 5:30PM] Apparently, Metro isn't quite as on board as WaCo Commissioners Duyck and Brian have led us to believe: Christian Gaston, Forest Grove News Times: Metro won't back Washington County proposal for urban reserve in Helvetia. More as news breaks.

One of the ways that politics and government manage to get such a bad rap is the notion that the big decisions with public policy often happen behind closed doors--in smoke-filled rooms with a grubby handshake, far from public oversight. That's certainly what seems to be going on right now with the Urban and Rural Reserves for Washington County.

(Incidentally, to contact your Metro Councilor, go here. Washington Co. Commission contact info is here).

More details are emerging from the Washington County Commissioners apparent private huddle with Metro and the Director of Oregon Land Conservation and Development.

First, the Washington County Commission vote on this will take place on Tuesday, December 14 at 6:30PM. It says they'll be allowing "up to one hour of public testimony" on the Reserves even though its "not required as part of the adoption of an Intergovernmental Agreement". Throwing a bone to the little people. If this goes down like they've done it previously, they'll invite the hacks from the City of Hillsboro and the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce to filibuster, and they'll be just enough time for one person from the Washington County Farm Bureau to testify in opposition before they shut the sham down and vote it through.

Here are the maps outlining the changes Washington County and Metro hope to fast track through without any substantive public input:

This map shows the new additional acreage near the Sunset Hwy (the Sunset is represented by two dark parallel lines bifurcating the map). Note that they're turning a big swath of land into undesignated from Rural, doing exactly the opposite of what LCDC was trying to get them to do: change rural reserves to undesignated in places that aren't threatened by urbanization. This clearly doesn't qualify.

This map shows the new countywide plan for Urban and Rural Reserves. Note the bright orange plots north of the Sunset Highway. Those are the plots that went from Rural Reserves to undesignated. They're both quite obviously under threat of urbanization. They're also in unincorporated Washington County, whose residents literally had NO representation whatsoever on the initial committee that made all the decisions about the county's reserves. Apparently, those of us who live outside the cities count matter even less. Nice.

Another map showing the county-wide reserves changes. This one does a good job highlighting the light green area around Cornelius that LCDC remanded back to the County. Note the orange-colored acreage adjacent to it: that's now undesignated. Again, very much under threat from urbanization. Not that they care what we think. We're just the people who pay their salaries.

An important point to consider: Washington County and Metro could just go with the LCDC decision to scale back the urban reserves and still have enough acreage to easily fit within the range Metro says is needed for the County over the next 50 years. It's not like the County is sitting around without available large lots, either. Not to mention the vast square footage of open office, industrial and retail space sitting vacant throughout.

Additionally, these maps clearly indicate an eventual merger between North Plains and Hillsboro. I wonder if those folks in North Plains moved there with the purpose of being swallowed up by their big brother? Of course, Washington County isn't terribly concerned with this--well, because they don't really care what the local citizens want. It's obviously not about that or they'd stop and take our input seriously.

Another major consideration: The state and federal transportation dollars that this proposal will require along Hightway 26 alone seems huge. It's an audacious assumption by Washington County that this money will simply land in their lap. The traffic gridlock is going to be incredible. Further, it appears that improvements, flyovers, new interchanges, etc. will be needed at Jackson School Road, Meek Road and Helvetia. (see county-wide maps).

How does the rest of the region feel about Washington County sucking up the vast majority of the region's transportation dollars?

And don't even get me started on the tax bill for the rest of the infrastructure costs.

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    Thank you, Carla. You are doing a real service to the community -- to the whole region -- by telling this story plain and true.

    The story is not over. Washington County citizens, join other sane and conscientious citizens at the Board Meeting Tuesday Dec. 14 at 6:30pm.

    There is no NEED for this Board to act now. The Land Conservation and Development Commission's Order from their October decision has not been issued yet. Once it is, it can be appealed. There are legal processes we could be following to resolve these issues -- no need for deals among cronies about to leave their jobs. There are others coming in who've been elected, in some cases, to help clean up the messes these outgoing officials created. There's still time to get the Reserves process right, but the current proposal doesn't do it.

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    FWIW, only one reporter was at today's council worksession to get details on the council's reaction, and that reporter works for Metro... http://bit.ly/hb6n8s

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