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Council listens to staff reports instead of residents

On March 31 a special council session was held to discuss support for a $250,000 grant application. This grant was for purchase of an additional 6 acres for the White Oak Savanna Park on Tannler Drive, bringing the total acreage to 20. The application deadline was scheduled for April 4.

In attendance were a very large number of community members and representatives from the local Federation of Tribes of the Grand Ronde. The council followed its usual practice of ignoring the community, which it represents, and instead listened only to the staff report. On a vote of three to two, support for the grant was denied. Not one of the community representatives was allowed to speak. Not Ed and Roberta Schwarz, whose nonprofit organization has devoted thousands of hours to this project and initiated the grant request under discussion, or the representatives of the tribes for whom this is an important site.

Instead, the council listened to a flawed staff report that outlined questionable costs related to the project. Points the staff report raised included the following. Potential taxes could be generated by developing this problematic site. However access to this area would be extremely difficult for any commercial or residential development. Positioned at one of the entry points to West Linn that the council seeks to make more attractive, a park would look better than commercial development as noted by a council member.

The staff speculated that although requesting the grant would cost the city nothing, taking on responsibility for the park could potentially result in $2.1 million in expenditure. The city would be responsible for various items such as providing a parking lot, a children’s playground, street improvements and re-zoning the site. It was pointed out to the council that the city is already responsible — “on the hook” — for these items as the White Oak Savanna is an established park. In fact these same items are in the West Linn 2016 budget plans. The staff conceded that changes to the requirements for the park related to adding the additional 6 acres would likely be minimal at most. Regarding street improvements, the Tannler, Blankenship and Salamo junctions at 10th Street are already failing and require significant upgrading with or without any further development.

Staff and three council members suggested that the best option might be to ask a land conservancy agency to take on responsibility for the park. West Linn already owns the park! No conservancy is likely to take on just the extra acreage. After multiple grant applications, thousands of hours of volunteer activity, the refusal to support this final grant may sound the death knell for this opportunity for expansion and West Linn residents will be the losers.

We as residents should ask questions of our council. Who does it represent? How much staff time did it take to produce such a flawed and biased report? And more importantly, why was the vote taken without hearing from sponsors or interested parties to the motion?

Brenda Perry lives in West Linn



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