Leaders from Clackamas County and Metro announced Tuesday that they are working on a plan to wrap up the last pieces of greater Portland's 50-year growth plan.
In a joint memo, Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard and Metro Council President Tom Hughes said they have directed their staffs to "quickly and collaboratively" finalize the designations of urban and rural reserves in Clackamas County.
The memo calls for making technical fixes required by a 2014 ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals and scheduling public hearings before both the Metro Council and Clackamas County Commission. It also says the regional and county governments will work with the public to plan for the future of the Stafford area, between Lake Oswego, West Linn and Tualatin, near Interstate 205.
And, the memo says, the region and county will work together to support development and job growth in areas that are already urbanized, including Milwaukie, Gladstone, Oregon City, Wilsonville and Happy Valley. Making the most of existing space in those areas can save taxpayers money compared to building new pipes, roads and other public services for job growth in expansion areas.
"Our intent is to adopt findings that address specific issues raised in the state court's review. There will be no additional changes to the urban and rural reserves map in Clackamas County," the memo from Hughes and Bernard says.
In 2008, Metro and Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties embarked on a two-year public engagement and research effort to draw up the 50-year growth map. In 2010, the counties and Metro agreed on a plan that set aside about 28,000 acres of "urban reserves," which would be targeted for urban growth boundary expansions through 2060. Rural reserves were also designated, making important farms and forests would be off-limits to urbanization for the same 50-year period.
The new system gave greater Portland flexibility it didn't have under older rules, which required Metro to expand the urban growth boundary in areas with poor soil quality. Those areas were often difficult to serve with pipes, roads, parks and schools because of terrain or distance issues, making them expensive to turn into new urban development.
Cities around the Stafford area appealed the designation, citing flawed findings in reference material sent to state regulators. In 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed with the cities, saying Metro and Clackamas County did not provide enough information to make the designation.
The solution was to rewrite the report sent to state regulators, but both Metro and Clackamas County both needed to agree on the new report, technically called "findings." Prior Clackamas County leaders refused to do that unless Metro agreed to consider allowing urban growth from the Portland metro area to jump the Willamette River along Interstate 5 and start building towards Salem.
Bernard defeated the incumbent Clackamas County chair in November's elections, and quickly set about resolving the reserves dilemma.
"We look forward to working with Metro to conclude the region's action on urban and rural reserves so that we may move forward on other important priorities," Bernard wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to Hughes.