A generation ago, King City was a roadside retirement community that strictly forbade homeowners under the age of 55. Now, as King City continues to grow and welcome younger families, leaders are looking west.
They’re considering asking the Metro Council for an urban growth boundary expansion this year, as the regional government undertakes its periodic review of greater Portland's growth.
The less than one-square-mile city's population today is around 4,800, but a request to extend its city limits west by 528 acres could add as many as 3,200 housing units and significantly boost its population, if approved.
Metro Council will decide by the end of 2018 whether the urban growth boundary should be expanded, by how much and where.
King City is among five cities that have submitted letters of intent to the regional government about proposed expansion areas. The others are Beaverton, Hillsboro, Sherwood and Wilsonville.
Creating a gateway
King City's plan involves adding the land between its western boundary and Roy Rogers Road, and between Beef Bend Road and the Tualatin River. Metro and Washington County designated that area as an urban reserve in 2011.
City manager Mike Weston said that with the city's buildable land expected to be built out by the end of next year, now was the time to pursue a UGB expansion.
Officials are also looking to create more of a live-work community, something they say is lacking with the city's current strip-mall style town center.
"We have a town center that includes a grocery outlet, a couple of restaurants and a pharmacy, but we don't have that real gathering space for the community," Mayor Ken Gibson said. "We need that gateway."
He says the new town center would serve as an anchor, helping to create job opportunities for residents of King City and neighboring communities and spur the region's economic growth.
"With the growing population that we have in the region, we have a unique opportunity to grow King City to accommodate the housing needs, but we are also excited about the possibility of contributing to the region in terms of commercial and industrial opportunities," Gibson said.
But a good portion of the urban reserve area includes environmentally sensitive areas like floodplains and ravine drainages, limiting the amount of "good, solid buildable land" to about 300 acres — the majority being on the westernmost portion between Roy Rogers and Elsner roads, Weston said.
The concept plan envisions four different areas: a bustling town center followed by a "Beef Bend neighborhood", a residential neighborhood and a rural neighborhood, each becoming less dense as you move southeast.
In the town center, there would be three- to five-story-tall buildings with apartments on the upper floors and retail and restaurants on the ground floors. A boutique hotel that would cater to tourists visiting the nearby wine country is also a possibility.
The city is looking to acquire land as the site of a new city hall, library and recreation center. The city has outgrown its existing space and the King City Civic Association's library is only open to residents of the retirement community.
Just south of the area, but still within walking distance, would be a business park with 20 to 25 acres available for offices and light industrial space.
To the east, the other three areas would be largely residential with a mix of housing, from detached single-family houses to duplexes, cottage clusters and rowhouses.
"It allows us to serve a lot of different income levels and needs," Weston said.
Other features of the plan include creating a trail system along the Tualatin River, giving the heavily traveled Beef Bend Road more of a "green boulevard" quality and spreading the traffic more evenly across a new network of roads.
City leaders estimate that the infrastructure for the expansion could cost between $61 million and $85 million. Developers would pay the cost of building the roads and other infrastructure in the new subdivisions, while other improvements like collector roads and reservoirs would be shared between special assessment districts and other agencies.
Gibson said that with 2020 being the the earliest construction could begin, waiting until Metro's 2021 cycle would only delay the inevitable.
"Prices are going to continue to go up," he said. "I just believe if we don't get in 2018 and delay a decision until 2021, I don't know how that could possibly help the issue of affordability. I think we're in a location where affordability will be attractive and reasonable for the region."
Neighbors oppose plan
But the city faces opposition from its western neighbors in the Rivermeade subdivision who say a proposal to create a new east-west connection between Fischer and Roy Rogers roads would cut their neighborhood in half.
Richard Werth, an 18-year resident and co-chair of the Rivermeade Land Use Committee, described the neighborhood as a close-knit community where houses get passed down from generation to generation or change hands by word of mouth.
"We know progress happens and things change … but they basically want to drive a thoroughfare road through the middle of our community," he said. "You can't just destroy a neighborhood to do that."
Werth, who sits on King City's Stakeholder Advisory Committee, said the most disappointing part is that project officials promised to come up with alternatives but have not yet done so.
The community association circulated a petition, which was signed by 49 property owners or 94 percent, and has retained legal counsel, should it come to that.
The road issue aside, Werth called King City's proposed expansion an ill-conceived plan, saying a good portion of the land poses environmental and access problems and would require costly infrastructure.
"They think they're going to solve all their issues because of the availability of the property by Roy Rogers that has development appeal," he said. "But several of us just question the economic viability of the plan.
"King City can't really offer the residents of Rivermeade anything of benefit that would make us want to be annexed into King City," he continued.
Weston says that while he understands their concerns, Fischer Road offers the best connection — though he said it probably wouldn't be built until a later stage of development.
"I know it's a sticking point with Rivermeade, but they're right next to our city and we can't continue to grow without that connection," he said.