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Pushing UGB objections forward, not back

This is in response to the Spotlight’s article last week on Portland Community College and the proposed urban growth boundary expansion into farmland to the east of the airport.

The article suggests the reason PCC is iffy about putting a campus adjacent to the runway at the airport was because Pat Zimmerman and I were appealing the state’s decision approving the UGB expansion (see “UGB expansion detractors should step back,” June 1).

A few facts. First, I would be happy to have a general purpose PCC campus located in or near Scappoose. The facility proposed here, however, was always vaguely defined and very limited in purpose. At one point it was to facilitate a Portland Police training facility on the farmland to the east of the UGB expansion land; then it was to be just for aircraft repair classes; then it was perhaps to be in conjunction with a “national security training facility” for weapons and high-speed chase training (and who knows what else... seen any drones lately?) located on the land that the Portland Police didn’t want.

When I met in 2011 with PCC’s friendly VP Randy McEwen, he said that PCC would need to be partners with some other entity — e.g. the Portland Police — to be able to afford to put a facility here.

So far that apparently hasn’t happened.

It’s also worth thinking about whether it would be good for our community to have the noise and traffic of weapons training ranges and high speed pursuit tracks just north of residential areas near the Crown-Z trail.

Second, Mr. Freeman, one of the two big developers owning almost all the land involved, is quoted in a previous article as saying that since Pat and I live outside the city limits that somehow we shouldn’t be allowed to appeal this decision. This is a little odd since I’ve lived just outside the city limits for the last 25 years, my kids went to school in Scappoose, etc., and Pat and her husband have lived in Dutch Canyon for decades. And do the two big Portland developers involved here live in Scappoose? Also the UGB process is where the city and the county decide to bring land from outside the city into the city. Since this is going to affect the lives of people that live outside city limits, shouldn’t they be allowed to participate in the democratic process as well?

Third, the article notes that Scappoose voters approved the UGB expansion. This is true, but the Spotlight fails to note two things: One, the vote was very close; if 31 voters had voted the other way the expansion would have been rejected; and second, only voters living inside the city limits were allowed to vote. Voters in surrounding areas outside the city limits were not allowed to vote, even though the vast increase in air traffic associated with the claim that the expansion would bring over 8,000 new airport related jobs to Scappoose in the next 17 years would impact them as well as residents inside the city, as would associated traffic delays, pollution from rail, truck and other traffic on Highway 30. And remember, part of the proposal is for the Port to extend the runway substantially toward the residential areas of the city, which would mean a lot more low-flying air traffic over the city.

Finally, City Manager Jon Hanken suggests that the appeal process has taken a long time and this shows there is something wrong with Oregon’s land use process. Developers and their friends in local government have for many years been trying to restrict or eliminate the public’s right to have a say in land use planning decisions in their communities that could have a dramatic impact on the health and quality of life of our families. Developer money brings with it a lot of political power, a lot of secret decision making and a lot of decisions not in the best interest of regular people in the community.

I have always supported incremental development in our community and local business growth that doesn’t have bad impacts on the livability of our community. Let’s keep Scappoose a nice place to live; if we wanted to live in a Hillsboro or near a PDX we wouldn’t have chosen Scappoose.

Michael Sheehan is a local attorney.