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CPRD will appeal county decision denying expansion of park

By Gary Allen,

2023-04-05

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The board of directors for the Chehalem Park and Recreation District voted recently to appeal the county’s rejection of plans to expand a local park that sits outside the Newberg city limits.

At issue is CPRD’s application to erect a footbridge over Chehalem Creek at Ewing Young Park, home to the skatepark, BMX track and a popular disc golf course. The CPRD submitted the application for a county floodplain development permit in hopes of expanding the park by 11 acres of land that is currently unreachable due to the stream. Expansion would allow the park district to expand the disc golf course and add to the park’s nature trails.

The county planning department turned back the park district’s application in early March, finding that the land in question was zoned agricultural/forestry, which doesn’t allow new roads or transportation uses. The county’s determination is based on a finding by the Land Use Board of Appeals several years ago that found that while parks are an allowed use on land zoned AF-10, parks by definition cannot include footbridges or other transportation facilities.

The land use quagmire the park district finds itself came about due a controversial decision by LUBA that found in the county’s favor and effectively banned construction of the Yamhelas Westsider Trail several years ago. LUBA found that although roads, highways and other transportation facilities were listed as a conditional use in exclusive farm zones, the county hadn’t provided a list of transportation facilities for that particular AF-10 zone and, therefore, the use was prohibited.

When examining the application by the CPRD to add to Ewing Young Park, County Planner Ken Friday advised park district officials to take another tack.

“Please be aware that a bridge/trail/transportation facility is not allowed in the AF-10 zone,” he explained in a January 2022 email to John Champlin, a Wilsonville-based landscape architect representing the CPRD. “That is the reason why we advised CPRD to have the property brought into the city limits and rezoned.”

Had the park district chosen to seek annexation of the land into the city limits, the parcel would have fallen under zoning more compatible with the district’s plans. The CPRD board chose not to seek annexation of the land, saying instead that the county had erred in its denial.

“The land use application for a footbridge over Chehalem Creek was denied because the planning director has deemed the project a ‘transportation facility’ when in fact it is a park improvement …,” the board wrote in its appeal. “Our project is not a trail, but rather a park improvement allowing for a pedestrian access that will remain internal to Ewing Young Park. Trails and parks are two distinctly different land uses. Parks are a permitted use in the AF-10 zones … and pedestrian pathways are essential to the development of parks.”

The park district goes on to argue the county’s comparison of defined use to built improvements is flawed.

“By using this approach, the zoning code would restrict any and all built improvements since none are defined. This is not the intent of the zoning code,” the appeal says.

The appeal will be heard by the Board of Commissioners, who hadn’t set a hearing as of press time Friday morning.

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