South Hillsboro's transformation from 1,400 acres of farmland into the largest planned-housing development in the state is starting to take shape. When completed in 2036, it will have 8,000 homes with 20,000 residents, town and village centers and recreation areas.
But Hillsboro officials say that still won't be enough to accommodate the city's fast-growing population, which has grown from 30,000 in 1980 to about 101,000 today.
A 2016 housing forecast projected that the city would have a deficit of 1,300 single-family homes over the next 20 years. To help close that gap, city leaders are now looking to add a 150-acre area known as Witch Hazel Village South to its urban growth boundary.
"We understand from the time that you get it into the UGB to when you actually see houses on the ground, sometimes it can take a while," said Laura Weigel, Hillsboro's long-range planning manager. "We know that we're growing and we're going to have this deficit. We wanted to get planning sooner rather than later."
The Metro Council will decide whether to expand the region's urban growth boundary in 2018, after an analysis of the land already in the boundary, and development and demographic trends. Metro is required to keep enough land inside the UGB to handle another 20 years of growth. This year, the council is also looking at whether sites are development-ready, including the ability to pay for the pipes and roads to serve new residents.
Weigel said that Hillsboro's burgeoning jobs market is a main driver behind the need to build more housing.
"We know that we can't tell people where they're going to live, but we want to give them a choice to live close to where they work," she said.
The proposed expansion area, which sits west of South Hillsboro and immediately south of the Witch Hazel Village community, is part of a larger 940-acre urban reserve area.
Weigel said expanding there makes sense because the topography is flat, extending the infrastructure would be easier because of its proximity to Witch Hazel and the area's 12 property owners have been "waiting and wanting this for a long time" and have been a part of the planning process.
The area would be completely residential with two planned neighborhood parks and trail connections. As many as 850 housing units would be built, including single-family homes, apartments, duplexes and cottage clusters.
Weigel said the commercial areas being developed in Witch Hazel and South Hillsboro would fill residents' needs for now, but that in the future, a further expansion of the UGB to the south would include commercial development.
Preliminary infrastructure costs are estimated to be about $45 million. Weigel says a lot of work was done during the South Hillsboro planning to develop a financing plan in which developers bear most of the costs for improvements, then are reimbursed with system development charge credits.
"We wanted to make sure that existing residents aren't paying for new infrastructure," Weigel said. "We need to have developers bear the costs."
If Hillsboro's request is approved by Metro, Weigel expects it'll be at least five or six years before shovels hit the ground.