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Land issues spark emotional testimony

The Washington County Board of Commissioners’ Aug. 5 meeting covered a lot of ground — literally and figuratively.

The day’s most emotional issue was Ordinance 785, an amendment related to urban and rural reserves. Land that would be added to the urban growth boundary is slated for South Hillsboro, South Cooper Mountain and a third area between Hillsboro and Cornelius.

The boundary change is the result of the so-called “Grand Bargain” that was approved by the Oregon Legislature and by Gov. John Kitzhaber in March, but some residents are not happy with the planned revisions.

During the county meeting, several owners of rural homes slated to become available for urbanization appealed to the commissioners for help.

Joseph Auth, who lives on Northwest 334th Avenue in Hillsboro, said his wife’s family has been raising and selling farm animals on the property for five generations, “soon to be six.”

“There’s been no transparency to this process,” Auth said, echoing the concerns shared by others who commented on the boundary alteration.

“The Grand Bargain was crafted by a few people, but the changes are above us. In the blink of an eye, it was changed,” said County Commissioner Roy Rogers.

Staff advised the commissioners that a map of the disputed area would be helpful, and that small adjustments could still be made.

A continuation hearing was scheduled for Aug. 19.

In another hot land issue, North Bethany’s “Steep Slopes” issue resurfaced, as it has for many months. Steep slopes in North Bethany are defined as slopes having a 25 percent or steeper grade.

Builder K&R Holdings has requested setback adjustments from the property’s natural features, and the issue has gone through various permutations. After reviewing the issue, members of the county’s land use staff advised the commissioners that their current choices are a 30-foot, 50-foot or a 100-foot setback. K&R favors 30 feet.

Several questions remain to be answered, including whether changing the setback would constitute a “taking” of land, and whether stormwater retention would be problematic, as Commissioner Greg Malinowski suggested.

“If I was a downhill neighbor, I’d be concerned,” Malinowski said.

Duyck asked about how changes in North Bethany would affect Area 93, “which has lots of slopes.”

Area 93 is a 160-acre area of undeveloped land north of Cedar Mill that became part of Washington County on Jan. 1 and has been added to the area’s urban growth boundary.

“We made Area 93 a promise that we would push this through,” said Malinowski.

Switching gears, the commissioners considered several rule changes for operations at the county’s various farmers’ markets.

Several revisions to current policy have been discussed, with “mini” farmers’ markets — markets that feature a maximum of five vendors and a minimum of 50 percent farm products for sale — on the table.

On Tuesday, commissioners debated start times and certifications for market managers handling federal Women, Infants & Children and Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program cards and monitoring food safety.

Commissioners supported the idea, saying it would encourage small-scale entrepreneurship.

In other action, the commissioners voted to end the 20 percent Transportation Development Tax (TDT) discount for building developers, which attracted public objection from only one source: Kirk Olsen, senior vice president of Trammell Crow Co. in Portland, a company that has built millions of dollars worth of property in Washington County.

The tax discount is currently slated to end Sept. 30 for those who are issued building permits by that time — not for those who have submitted plans for review.

“We can control when the plans are submitted, but not when they’re approved,” said Olsen.

Olsen claimed that ending the discount will cost his company $200,000 on a plan now under way.

Nevertheless, commissioners voted to drop the discount, effective Oct. 1, due to an improved economy.



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