Happy Valley now suing North Clackamas Parks District
In competing press releases on Monday, officials from both Clackamas County and Happy Valley announced a lawsuit regarding the amount that the county owes the city in development charges for parks.
Happy Valley's City Council voted unanimously in May to proceed with withdrawing from the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District.
Happy Valley staff returned on June 6 with an ordinance to officially withdraw from NCPRD effective Dec. 31.
In the four months since the decision was made to withdraw, Happy Valley has demanded that the county return most of the $17.5 million in System Development Charges for parks received from the city. According to the lawsuit filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court on Oct. 9, the city transfered about $13.4 million to the county for parks that were never built.
Clackamas County Administrator Don Krupp said Happy Valley has chosen to file this legal action based on inaccurate representations of fact and a misguided perception that the city is owed more than authorized by law.
"The city is seeking a disproportionate share of park district assets without any supporting legal basis or justification," Krupp said. "Agreeing to their proposal would significantly overburden the district and would not be fair to the 100,000 residents outside of Happy Valley who are served by NCPRD."
Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer said that the City Council determined, as a last resort the only way forward was to file an official complaint in Circuit Court. Twelve years after joining the district, she said, none of the park projects identified by NCPRD and the city have been completed.
"Despite this unexpected hurdle, the city is excited to become the parks and recreation provider in Happy Valley. We collected feedback from residents throughout the summer and that input is now being used to develop a Parks Master Plan and evaluate new recreation programs," Chavez-DeRemer said. "We live in an active community and we can't wait to build more parks and playgrounds, extend trails, and offer recreation programs that make a difference to our community."
Happy Valley voters in 2004 approved entering the district, effective 2005, but no vote of citizens is planned to withdraw from the district. City Council is relying on a provision in Oregon law that would allow a governing body to hold a hearing and make the decision to withdraw through an ordinance.
The four new park projects promised to voters in 2004 included a community center, all-weather soccer fields, a new Rock Creek community park and the completion of the Scott Creek trail.
City and county officials had hoped that it wouldn't get to the point of a formal lawsuit. Oregon law outlines a procedure for the "fair" division of assets following a governmental jurisdiction's secession from a district.
Happy Valley officials say they are committed to work with NCPRD to ensure the $17.5 million in SDCs is spent according to the IGA signed in 2005. When it entered NCPRD, Happy Valley's No. 1 priority was the development of the Rock Creek 30-acre community park with athletic fields, but it worked closely with NCPRD staff to develop the 36-acre Hood View Community Park with sports fields instead. Hood View was recently sold to the school district, but NCPRD officials say that programs there will be retained and the strategic partnership will be "very positive" for Happy Valley.
NCPRD isn't even halfway through its Capital Improvement Plan through 2030, and the IGA is clear that the funds were not available to develop all four of Happy Valley's park priorities. The Mt. Scott Trail Project is ready to be constructed, but the county won't be requesting bids from construction companies now that Happy Valley is finalizing its withdrawal from the parks district.