Clackamas County leaders have tabled discussion of changes to the county's 50-year growth map after a public outreach campaign revealed overwhelming opposition to a key part of the proposal.
Since 2014, some county commissioners, including Chair John Ludlow, have sought to change the agreement, in an effort to allow for the possibility of development on the French Prairie between Wilsonville and Woodburn.
Opponents have said doing so would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and open the door to endless sprawl down the Willamette Valley. Proponents say Clackamas County should focus its job-creation efforts south of the Willamette River, rather than areas like North Milwaukie or the Interstate 205 corridor that are closer to where most county residents live.
More than 400 people attended open houses on the proposed changes to the growth map. In addition to the open houses, in late June in Canby, Wilsonville, and Carver, public comments were taken online.
Clackamas County and Metro agreed to the growth plan in 2010, establishing urban reserves that would be the first priority for urban growth boundary expansions through 2060, and rural reserves where urbanization would be prohibited during that period.
A survey distributed at the open houses revealed little support for the proposal to roll back the 2010 agreement.
The survey asked people whether they agree that the area around the Langdon Farms Golf Club should be left "undesignated," meaning it could be urbanized once 75 percent of the urban reserves are used.
Of the 550 people who responded to the question, 506 said they disagreed. Only 14 said they supported the proposal. The rest said they didn't know.
Questions about proposed changes to the reserves map near Carver and Canby were similarly unpopular.
The commission's decision to postpone the discussion until further notice puts another delay into a process that has dragged on for years.
A 2014 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling put all of Clackamas County's reserves plan on hold until a minor technical fix in the plan was adopted by the Metro Council and Clackamas County Commission. The county has refused to sign off on that fix unless Metro agrees to make wholesale changes to the 2010 agreement, including changing areas south of the Willamette River to “undesignated.”
Until the reserves plan is adopted, the Metro Council can't use urban reserves in Clackamas County for potential urban growth boundary expansions. Instead, it must rely primarily on soil quality to decide where growth could happen in that county – meaning that the steepest, rockiest areas are the areas least suitable for farming would be the first subject to urbanization. Adopted urban reserves in Washington County would be targeted before any land in Clackamas County.
That leaves Wilsonville, which has sought a small UGB expansion on the city's northeast side for a new residential development, out of consideration.
Wilsonville opposes Clackamas County's proposal to go south of the Willamette. They say the Boone Bridge has reached its capacity, and it would be too expensive to extend pipes across the Willamette to serve future growth, citing a 2009 estimate from ODOT and other groups that it would cost more than half a billion dollars to add capacity to the Boone Bridge.
"Adding new traffic generators on a congested highway further harms the movement of freight and conduct of commerce in the metro region and to areas further south," says a letter from Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp.
The sentiment was shared by others who participated in the county's survey.
"Boone Bridge 'Pinch' is already cause of miles of bumper to bumper congestion – and no solution in sight?" wrote one anonymous respondent. "Why make it worse?"
Another commenter said they want to see farm land protected.
"There is plenty of land available in other parts of Clackamas County, closer to commercial areas," they said. "There is no reason to destroy prime agricultural land which already employs people."
This article has been updated to clarify that the Clackamas County Commission did not set a specific date to reconsider rural reserves and to reflect that the county did not conduct a scientific survey to obtain public comments.