It's been nearly a decade since Metro began working on a growth map built to last a half century, a map that shows areas that will be off-limits to development and areas that will be first targeted for UGB expansions.
But parts of the plan still need wrapping up, thanks to a 2014 ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals.
That wrap-up process began in earnest Thursday, as the Metro Council opened a public hearing on its proposed technical fix to the designation of urban reserves in the Stafford area, between Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn.
In 2010, the Metro Council and Clackamas County Commission jointly designated that area as an urban reserve, one of the areas the Metro Council can look at first for potential urban growth boundary expansions before 2060.
But the surrounding cities sued, saying Metro didn't adequately consider whether the roads around Stafford could handle future growth. The appeals court agreed, issuing what's known as a remand to send the plan back for further review.
The solution, according to Metro, is to bolster its findings and supporting documentation about the future capacity of roads in the area. Metro says growth in the Stafford Basin can be planned in a way that ensures roads will accommodate new development.
Opponents say that won't be enough, and that Metro should enter a facilitated discussion with opponents of the urban reserve designation to work out a compromise.
As many speakers at the public hearing Thursday pointed out, a fix won't be easy.
The Clackamas County Commission is seeking to pull the rural reserves designation from the Langdon Farms Golf Course and the surrounding farmland, so that it might be brought into the urban growth boundary before 2060. Clackamas County officials say they need the land for job creation, and that the employees at those sites would probably live in the small towns of the Willamette Valley, not the Portland urban area north of the Willamette.
"The elephant in the room today is the attempt to scuttle the rural and urban reserves process by the Clackamas County Commission," said Tony Holt, president of the Charbonneau Homeowners Association. "Two or three members of the commission seem obsessed with changing the designation of properties owned by one family, and that's the Maletis family, south of the Willamette River."
The notion of re-opening the reserves map, and discussing the status of the French Prairie rural reserve, was opposed by a litany of officials, including Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard, former Clackamas County Chair Charlotte Lehan, former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Bill Riggs and current Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp.
"I am personally concerned by some of the conversations that are taking place among certain members of the Clackamas County Commission regarding an attempt to tie development south of the Willamette River to this remand," Knapp said. "The reserves process involved thousands of people, providing public input and countless hours of work to reach agreement. Any attempt to muddy the water and include issues beyond the narrow limited scope of this remand would be a betrayal of that robust, transparent and open public process."
He added that one study found that it would cost the public $500 million just for transportation infrastructure to serve new development in the French Prairie.
"The reserves process found that urbanizing the French Prairie area would be highly expensive for transportation, water and sewer infrastructure and detrimental to the long-term viability of the north Willamette Valley agricultural industries," Knapp said.
Chris Maletis, one of the French Prairie-area landowners, said he would try to meet with councilors individually and appear at the next public hearing.
"My brother and I have been taken over the coals by a lot of people today, with a lot of mistruths, I'd like to sit down and call individual councilors, have an explanation that they understand at least where we have been coming from over the years," Maletis said. "And then we'll come and testify, and whatever questions somebody wants to ask me on the record as fine, I want to be as transparent as can be. But it's difficult to sit back there and hear a whole bunch of people make up a whole bunch of things that aren't true."
Of course, not everyone came to talk about an area that isn't officially up for discussion. Some people testified about the topic at hand – the Stafford Basin, including former Metro Councilor Carl Hosticka.
"If, for some reason, the Stafford area were not in an urban reserve anymore, you would have to then look for 6,000 acres someplace else in the region in order to make up the amount of urban reserve you need, and that's a process I'm glad I would not be a part of," Hosticka said.
But Stafford resident Larry Reid said Metro's technical fix to the 2014 remand lacks credibility.
"The lack of reserve clarity is not from the cities' use of traffic forecasting, but from regional transportation planning issues that lack clarity," Reed said. "Even the 2014 regional transportation plan, or future plans, cannot alleviate Lake Oswego's State Street, or West Linn's Highway 43 traffic congestion. With limited ability to widen those already-congested arteries, that would have to accommodate tens of thousands of additional car trips at Stafford's urban densities, and causing non-functionality of those cities, there is no solution."
He called on Metro, Tualatin, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Clackamas County and the Stafford Hamlet to come together and negotiate a solution.
Jeff Condit, an attorney representing some opponents of the Stafford urban reserve, said the technical fix might not be all that's needed to get Stafford accepted as an urban reserve.
"The Court of Appeals decision stopped at the RTP (regional transportation plan) and concluded a remand had to be issued because Metro failed to address that argument that the cities made initially, but they (the court) did not reach our other arguments," Condit said. "Metro's findings similarly failed to address those issues."
In all, 20 people testified Thursday, the first of two hearings on the topic. The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19.