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State looks to mediation for city's UGB case


Legislators, DLCD suggest settlement talks with all parties before pursuing other options

After representatives met with state legislators to discuss the matter, the city of Woodburn may attempt a negotiated settlement to end the nearly 20-year fight to expand the city’s urban growth boundary (UGB).

Mayor Kathy Figley, along with councilors Pete McCallum, Frank Lonergan and Teresa Alonso Leon and City Administrator Scott Derickson, met with state Sen. Peter Courtney and Rep. Betty Komp at the State Capitol June 26 to talk about the city’s UGB case.

McCallum and other officials had previously confirmed that the city would explore possible legislative solutions after Woodburn’s efforts to expand its UGB stalled out in the court system for the second time.

According to a report by Figley presented at the July 14 City Council meeting, Courtney and Komp suggested the city meet with staff from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) to “discuss the possibilities of reaching a negotiated settlement with the involved parties before any additional options are pursued.”

Figley said that, in the meeting with DLCD Director Jim Rue and other staff, it was also suggested that the city try mediation with opponents of the expansion proposal, which include local residents and the land-use advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Last week, several councilors expressed support for mediation efforts, though no one seemed particularly optimistic about their success.

“Frankly, I think it probably would (fail), but we should try," Councilor Jim Cox said. “Mediation is our first option.”

Ultimately, Figley said, whether the city would agree to mediation would depend on several factors, including who the mediator and participants are, and the ground rules.

“In a mediation, one normally gets something when giving something,” she said, “so before we were to enter into such a thing, we would have to have some sense ... what those limits might be.”

The matter was taken up by the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) at its meeting last month, with DLCD staff recommending that the mediation process begin with “an assessment of whether mediation would be likely to succeed,” sponsored by the department. The commission ultimately voted to proceed with the assessment.

The LCDC’s consideration was motivated by a looming deadline, by which it was required to issue a final order or take some other action in response to the Oregon Court of Appeals’ rejection of Woodburn’s expansion proposal in January.

The staff’s recommendation that the commission pursue mediation in the case was supported by Friends, whose policy director and staff attorney assigned to the case, Mary Kyle McCurdy, submitted a letter in favor of settlement negotiations.

“We have suggested getting together before to see if we could come together and settle this matter, and we have not heard anything back from the city,” McCurdy said.

McCallum said he was not aware of any settlement attempts that had been offered to the City Council or staff, but he admitted that their side had not — up until this point — attempted to initiate settlement talks.

“We’ve tried to follow the law, to the best of our ability," he said. “And the law lays out what you’re supposed to do, where you get approval by elected officials at the local level and the county level and the state level, and we’ve gone through that twice now, and the Court of Appeals has said, ‘You can’t write an order.’”

In McCallum’s and Figley’s view, the primary sticking point in the mediation would be the industrial areas included in the city’s proposal. Figley characterized the removal of these portions as a non-starter.

McCallum said he already fields frequent complaints from constituents who feel the taxes are too high in Woodburn, and that the base provided by light industrial users in the UGB would be necessary to support further residential growth.

“Expanding residential services and programs without offsetting industrial growth is not financially sustainable for the community,” Figley wrote in her report. “Such a limited proposal, in our opinion, would be a deal-breaker.”

However, McCurdy declined to discuss the likelihood of success of any potential negotiations.

“I think it’s too early to speculate at this point,” she said.

Earlier this year, the city had hoped to challenge the appellate court’s ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court. However, the city’s request for a hearing misfired when the high court declined to take up the case.

McCallum estimated that, in terms of staff time, legal fees, hearings and other expenses, the 18-year process has cost the city between $750,000 and $1 million.

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.