The Core 4 reserves negotiating team got together one more time Tuesday, with commissioners from Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties and two Metro councilors opening a state hearing on whether to approve reserves.
The Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission on Tuesday began a four-day hearing about reserves at the Metro Regional Center, kicking off hours of testimony before a full day of deliberation scheduled for Friday.
It's a groundbreaking effort for the commission. The regional urban and rural reserves designation is a first for Oregon, created by Senate Bill 1011 in the 2007 legislature. The commission must sort through 46 objections to the reserves compromise. Staff at the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development suggested the commission approve reserves in spite of the objections.
The two Metro councilors who spoke, Acting Council President Carlotta Collette and Councilor Kathryn Harrington, who represented Metro on the Core 4 team, lauded the effort to come to a reserves agreement.
"It is groundbreaking work," Collette said. "We looked across our region and identified those places that make the most sense to protect for farms, forests and natural resources, and we said we want to protect those and designate those for 50 years. That just doesn't happen anywhere else in the United States."
Harrington highlighted the research that went into the designations.
"We evaluated how various factors influence the shape of our region and contribute to the quality of life we enjoy," she said. "We sought to identify how the agricultural economy, natural areas and urban communities all contribute value to our region."
The Core 4 didn't reach a unanimous conclusion. Originally, the counties were slated to enter into a binding agreement with each other about reserves; as negotiations among Clackamas and Washington counties broke down, the counties instead only entered into individual agreements with Metro.
Clackamas County Commissioner Charlotte Lehan addressed that change in the process in her opening statement.
"We also left unresolved the final interpretation of what it means to be under threat of urbanization," she said, referring to one of the criteria for designating rural reserves. "LCDC has the ability to act as the expert neutral party removed from the constraints of local politics. Can you help answer two key questions: Did we fulfill the promises of Senate Bill 1011? And secondly, did we protect what needed protecting of our best farmland and our most significant natural resource lands?"
A litany of objectors were given time to testify after the opening statements, beginning with the Washington County Farm Bureau. The hearing was slated to begin again at 8 a.m. Oct. 20.