Just 27 years ago, Sherwood was a sleepy community just off Highway 99W, a town of 3,000 people at the edge of the Portland urban area.
Now the 4.3-square-mile city is home to about 19,000 people. The growth trend doesn't appear to be slowing down and city leaders believe now is a good time to expand the urban growth boundary by bringing in more than 600 acres into its city limits.
The Sherwood City Council told staffers to move forward with submitting a letter of interest to the Metro Council, which is ultimately tasked with deciding whether the boundary in the three Portland metro counties should be expanded in 2018.
But the letter, due Dec. 29, is only the first step. More work still needs to be done before the city files its formal proposal with the regional government in May.
In a change from previous years, cities will have to show Metro that the proposed expansion areas are ready for development, and that the cities have taken steps to address issues such as affordable housing and walkability in their existing developments.
"The (Metro) Council is interested in seeing that the cities are making good use of the land they already have, whether it's the downtown or a past expansion area," said Ted Reid, a principal regional planner.
The Metro Council is expecting several cities around the region to ask for urban growth boundary expansions in 2018. The council reviews the boundary every few years to see whether there’s enough room within the boundary to handle 20 years' worth of growth in the greater Portland region.
In the last review, in 2015, the council found that there was enough land in the boundary to handle two decades of growth. With 3,000 people a month moving to the area, though, it’s expected that at least a small adjustment will be needed in 2018.
Where that expansion goes is up to the Metro Council, which is expected to make its decision by the end of 2018. Any decision would be reviewed by state regulators.
Sherwood first began work on a preliminary concept plan for the 1,291-acre urban reserve area west and north of the city limits known as "Sherwood West" in late 2014, with help from a Metro grant.
'We knew we needed to expand'
The city grew at an annual pace of 3.4 percent from 2000 to 2013, and if that rate continues, land within the city limits and Brookman area would only be able to support five to 10 years' worth of growth, said Julia Hajduk, community development director.
Sherwood's 20-year forecast shows that it will have a deficit of about 450 housing units, mostly medium- and high-density residential.
"With how quickly we had been growing … we knew that we needed to expand," she said. "We know that it's not developed the next year and wanted to make sure that we had a supply of land given that we know how long it takes."
Metro added 235 acres to the urban growth boundary south of Sherwood in 2002, but Sherwood voters repeatedly rejected efforts by the city to annex the area. A change in state law now allows for annexation to take place without voter approval if certain conditions are met; 92 acres were annexed earlier in 2017.
But even with that, Hajduk says there would still be a shortage of developable land in Sherwood. She said an expansion into Sherwood West makes the most sense given the school district's plans for a new high school there. The school site was added to the UGB earlier this year, under a special process that allows non-housing uses to come into the UGB without a region-wide review.
The preliminary plan for Sherwood West envisions walkable 10-minute neighborhoods, access to parks and nature areas, local retail shops and a gateway to wine country at the southern end, capitalizing on the city's proximity to nearby wineries.
The plan also suggests that the city encourage the construction of a variety of housing to address the "missing middle" – smaller single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes, condos and cottage housing.
"Sherwood's grown a lot and yet everybody that moved here now and 20 years ago moved here for the small-town feel," Hajduk said. "What is it that makes that small-town feel? The neighborhood connections, pedestrian connectivity, the schools, the parks and so as we were doing Sherwood West, we wanted to carry forward those things that made us feel connected even if we were denser and had a larger population."
Costs for infrastructure such as roads, and water and sewer lines, will be high, but the improvements would be done in phases, depending on the willingness of property owners, the availability of funding and buildable land and the city's overall growth.
Hajduk said it's more cost-effective to bring in a larger expansion area than is initially necessary because the infrastructure costs could be split among more households.
Residents give mixed feedback
An open house in October drew between 85 and 100 people and 67 public comments.
The comments ranged from residents in the urban reserve eager to have their family lots brought into the city limits so they can sell to a developer to others who were against any kind of growth, saying that traffic and congestion would only get worse and roads should be improved before any new housing is built.
Many of those in favor of an expansion agreed that the area surrounding the proposed high school should be considered first.
Hella Betts, an unincorporated Washington County resident who served on the Sherwood West Community Advisory Committee during the yearlong planning process, said that Sherwood needs to expand – but in a smart way, rather than a piecemeal approach to development.
"That's what's going to clog this whole thing – if these different developers just put in what will give them a profit," she said. "How then can there be proper planning with the infrastructure?"
Betts says the commute to and from Portland is already bad and is skeptical of the county's ability to make the necessary road improvements. But she, too, plans to eventually sell her and her parents' 13 acres if the right offer comes along.