Four King City councilors on Feb. 13 recall ballot over Kingston Terrace development

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Carla Bankston, whose family’s property is in a Columbia Land Trust conservation easement in the King City UGB, testifies at the Jan. 9 King City City Council meeting about the possibility of moving a road in Kingston Terrace to bypass the Bankston property; from left, Councilor Shawna Thompson, Mayor Jaimie Fender and Councilors Marc Manelis, Smart Ocholi and Laurie Petrie, and City Manager Mike Weston listen. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life
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And then there were four.

A group working since last fall to remove six King City city councilors from office because of their support for a controversial plan to develop Kingston Terrace successfully gathered enough signatures on their petitions to hold a recall election.

The election is set for Feb. 13 with four eligible names on the ballot, although originally the King City Recall Committee’s Chief Petitioner Randall Olsen filed six prospective petitions to remove Councilors Kate Mohr, Micah Paulsen, Smart Ocholi, Laurie Petrie and Marc Manelis plus Mayor Jaimie Fender from office.

According to King City Recall Election Committee spokesperson Patti Nichols, “There are five councilors who have had signatures submitted. Councilor Micah Paulsen has submitted his resignation effective Dec. 31, 2023, so he is no longer subject to recall. Councilor Marc Manelis has since shown a desire to hear community feedback and adjust his council decisions to align with citizens’ concerns.

“We appreciate his willingness to adjust his decision to better reflect the community. In light of this, signatures for him were not submitted for recall.”

(Manelis declined to speak to Tigard Life about the issue after voting in favor of the Kingston Terrace Master Plan (MP) and King City Transportation System Plan (TSP) last summer. Paulsen said that he and his family were selling their King City home and moving.)

Nichols summarized the petition process by saying that the chief petitioner, treasurer and spokesperson are residents of the King City Civic Association or Edgewater and the recall support representatives were from all areas. She added that “442 signatures (per petition) were required for a recall election to be held. King City has about 3,800 registered voters. Over 80 percent of the folks we asked to sign said yes. This resulted in 870 citizens of King City saying they want a change in leadership.”

Kingston Terrace, 528 acres of mostly rural properties and farms, is located between the western boundary of the city, the Tualatin River, and Beef Bend and Roy Rogers roads. King City added the area to its urban growth boundary (UGB) in late 2018 after getting approval from the Metro Council.

Since that time, city officials and planning consultants have worked to come up with a plan to deal with the area’s natural topography while planning for transportation routes, a town center, 3,300 to 3,600 housing units of different types, and park and recreation opportunities within about 318 acres.

Many speakers at the public hearings and meetings over the years were primarily opposed to the proposed extension of Fischer Road from where it dead-ends in the Edgewater subdivision because of disruption to existing homes and established neighborhoods plus causing environmental damage.

Over the last few months, city officials and those working on the recall petition have accused each other of providing misinformation about the issues. 

Fender, who has spoken at City Council meetings about council members being harassed and threatened over the Kingston Terrace development, sent an opinion piece to Tigard Life on Jan 9. The  Recall/Election Committee also issued a press release Jan. 7, and the following statements are taken from those submissions.

Fender wrote, “There is an effort right now in King City to recall 65 percent of the King City City Council, including me and three of the other five councilors. Proponents of this radical recall would like you to think this is about a policy decision, but the fact is, this recall campaign is being pushed and paid for by a few landowners, some of whom don’t even live in King City and cannot vote in this election.

“King City is legally required to plan for future growth. As such, King City’s growth management plan was developed by impartial experts over the past seven years with numerous public meetings and input from hundreds of city residents. We spent years collaborating with stakeholders, community members, community partners, and government agencies. The plan has been approved or endorsed by the City Council, county commission, Metro Council and even state agencies.

“In developing these plans, King City used grant money to hire three different independent and impartial expert consulting firms. These experts performed science-based traffic and growth studies, ran modeling, analyzed data, and provided their expert opinions. Those opinions, analyses, and data were then collated by the experts into recommended plans. Drafts of the plans were provided to the community and to our stakeholders.

“When feedback and alternatives were proposed by residents, we invested additional resources to have the issues evaluated by experts. We had almost seven years of community engagement, outreach, and input on the plans before the final plans were presented to the Planning Commission and then to the City Council for approval.

“Despite these facts, a few property owners have launched this recall simply because we didn’t vote their way. They want to replace us with unelected, appointed people who will choose their personal interest above those of the residents of King City. Removing a majority of the Council, to further the personal financial interest of a few landowners, is radical and undemocratic, and it’s wrong.”

Nichols focused on the lack of evidence that the entire MP and TSP would have to be scrapped and redone at an additional cost. “There is evidence from the changes proposed by a developer that it is possible to change the existing plan without starting over,” she wrote. “It is unscrupulous for the city to use an unsupported threat of scrapping the current plans, starting over and repaying grants, which creates fear in its citizens about the recall. Citizens have repeatedly asked the city to prioritize neighborhoods and the protection of the Tualatin River and its wildlife corridors.

“The City Council may have ‘heard’ what its citizens were saying, but they did nothing to respond to it. The community expects its leadership to be representative, to be engaged by independently reviewing and verifying information, providing oversight of its city manager, working diligently to ensure the Planning Commission and Budget Committee are fully staffed, following the rules set forth in their own Municipal Code and Oregon Revised Statutes, and collaborating with the community. The councilors subject to recall have failed to deliver on these basic mandates, so change is vitally important for sound governance and to ensure the livability and community shared vision for our future.”

Nichols quoted one of the recall group, Karl Swanson, who said, “It’s encouraging to see how many people turned out to show that they want their voices to be heard. So many folks have volunteered their time, space, and signatures to make this a truly citizen-led and organized effort. It was my experience that an overwhelming majority of the folks given an opportunity to sign, did.”

At the Jan. 8 City Council meeting, the councilors decided to interview applicants for two open positions on the Planning Commission at their Jan. 17 meeting and interview City Council applicants (for Paulsen’s position) at their Jan. 31 meeting and vote on the positions the same evenings, pending approval from legal counsel. There were three applicants for each of the two boards as of the Jan. 8 meeting.

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