One of the biggest decisions Metro Council will make this year is whether or not the greater Portland urban growth boundary should be expanded. If the Metro Council decides that the region doesn't have enough land for the next 20 years' worth of growth, the question then becomes where and by how much to expand.
Four cities — Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville — have submitted proposals that together would expand greater Portland's urban footprint by 2,181 acres with hopes for developing about 9,200 homes in those areas. To prepare for any decision on expansion, representatives from those cities are sharing their visions with the Metro Council and the Metro Policy Advisory committee.
Two of those cities, Hillsboro and King City, went before MPAC – a group whose members represent the region's cities, counties, special districts and other agencies – and the council last week. Beaverton and Wilsonville will present its proposals later this month.
King City looks to build a core
King City, a onetime retirement community that is hoping to turn itself into a 24-hour city, is looking to extend its city limits west by 528 acres and add as many as 3,500 housing units.
"King City is determined to be a part of the solution to the housing crisis that we have in the region," Mayor Ken Gibson said.
The concept plan envisions four different areas: a bustling town center with civic uses, housing, and 80,000 to 120,000 square feet of commercial space, followed by a neighborhood along Beef Bend Road, a central neighborhood and a rural neighborhood, each becoming less dense as you move southeast.
Metro Council President Tom Hughes said he liked the plan but called it ambitious, asking how the city would adjust to a near-doubling of its population.
"I lived in a community that used to double its size every 10 years and it creates an enormous amount of pressure," said Hughes, who was a longtime planning commissioner in Hillsboro before serving as mayor from 2001 to 2009. "The physical infrastructure is easy to account for, but how do you develop the staff infrastructure to site, permit, inspect 3,500 units of housing?"
It was a point echoed by Hillsboro Councilor Anthony Martin during MPAC's meeting.
Mike Weston, King City's city manager, acknowledged that there would be growing pains, but said the plan provides an economy of scale that would result in a more affordable and sustainable community.
Councilor Shirley Craddick asked about the availability of land for employment or industrial land.
Weston said the city initially planned to have a business park south of the town center with 20 to 30 acres available for offices and light industrial space. But legal counsel instead advised it to provide campus-style institutional land that could be used for a new district school, community college annex or hospital.
Councilors Sam Chase and Betty Dominguez encouraged city officials to prioritize its affordable housing strategy.
In addition to currently allowing manufactured dwellings in every residential zone, Weston said the city also plans to incorporate subsidized housing into the land it would need to acquire for a new city hall, recreation center and library.
"I encourage you to be innovative in your thinking about your civic center," Dominguez said. "There's a lot of great examples around the region of housing built atop libraries or even city halls."
During MPAC's meeting, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz complimented city officials on their plans to have parks and natural areas every quarter-mile as well as its commitment to affordable housing options.
"This is really what we want to see in a relatively close-in location," she said.
During the council work session, Councilor Bob Stacey asked what sets its proposal from the other cities.
"Other cities will say they're short on their 20-year housing needs, but we're short on our two-year prospects," Weston said. "We actually have real need."
He added that it's an opportunity for King City to go from a planned development to a 24-hour city and become a regional contributor by helping to address needs for housing, commercial and institutional development, green spaces and an improved transportation network.
"It covers every basis of what I believe Metro and everyone in the state has been asking for the past 40 years of land use," he said.
Hillsboro seeking efficiencies in small proposal
Hillsboro's request is the smallest of the four proposals at 150 acres.
The proposed expansion area known as Witch Hazel Village South is part of a larger 940-acre urban reserve area that sits west of the under-development South Hillsboro and immediately south of the Witch Hazel Village community.
The area would be completely residential with two planned neighborhood parks and trail connections. About 800 housing units would be built, with two-thirds set aside for medium-density housing and the remaining third along the Reserve Golf Course for low-density housing.
Stacey asked city officials why now and why there when they're busy with the build-out of South Hillsboro.
Colin Cooper, the city's planning director, said it takes on average six years from the time land is included into the urban growth boundary until there are shovels in the ground.
"In the next six years, you'll see a tremendous amount of development in South Hillsboro," he said. "But we believe that to ensure there's a healthy adequate supply of land over time, we should be asking for this land at this time."
He said that it's an easy area to urbanize, both because of the adjacent infrastructure that can be extended from Witch Hazel Village and the willing property owners who have been involved in the process from the start.
Dominguez sought more information about the city's affordable housing action plan and urged officials to find ways to provide affordable housing options for the working poor.
Copies of the cities' proposals are available on Metro's website and the public is invited to provide feedback about the plans through July 9.