A few weeks back I put up a post about the Beaverton School Board's plan to bury a 2.5 acre wetland under massive amounts of sand, gravel and crushed rock. See it here. This is one of the most environmentally irresponsible plans I've seen in a long time. However, in spite of meeting stiff resistance from a variety of directions, the plan is somehow continuing to lumber forward through the approval process.
As part of that process, the Beaverton Planning Commission held a public hearing of the plan on May 27th (2015). I could not attend in person, but a video recording of the meeting is available online, so I watched it last night. Something leaped out at me early in the proceedings: this plan, regardless of any wetlands issues, is nowhere complete or well structured enough to be approved by the city, much less anyone else. The planning commission itself found enough issues with it to rule for a continuance, which will give the applicant a chance to work on tightening up some serious loose ends related to transportation, and finding some kind of resolution to an interesting boundary line dilemma between Washington and Hillsboro counties.
The planning commission also voiced concerns related to the proposed destruction of wetlands deemed necessary in the current plan. Helping to elevate this issue, and also offering solutions to its knottier aspects, was Brian Wegener, spokesperson for the Tualatin Riverkeepers. A detailed overview of his comments can be found in his followup letter to the commission (here). In a nutshell, the Riverkeepers is asking the commission to make removal of wetland-fill provisions a precondition for any future approval of the development plan. This seems very reasonable, given that the proposal to fill the wetlands is driven by an interest in duplicating mixed use sports fields that would be built on other portions of the campus.
One particular detail I feel obliged to mention here is the city's staff appeared unaware the wetland in question is not only covered under the South Cooper Mountain master plan, but also listed as being an integral part of what is described as having "the highest preservation priority." (See especially pages 24 and 54 of this document.) Several of the commissioners appeared to be unaware of this aspect of the situation as well. It is not uncommon for the left hand to have little or no idea of what the right hand has been up to in organizations of all sizes and stripes; still, it is regrettable that something so basic and important as the city's master plan for the area would be so poorly studied by those who must make critical decisions about the disposition of critical resources therein.
The planning commission will meet to hear the applicant's responses to their concerns June 24th, 2015. The public will also be able to comment in this session as well, but only on items not already covered in the May 27th hearing. Since this issue has direct implications for the health of the Tualatin River, I hope many of the basin's Watershed Folk will be there to stand up for the wetland. One thing is certain, whoever else may show up, Brian Wegener will be there. He is the Tualatin River's bulldog.