Capping off years of reforms to Oregon’s land use planning system, the Metro Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve several urban growth boundary expansions that should, relatively quickly, lead to new home construction.
The council approved four expansions to the region’s urban growth boundary, opening up 2,181 acres to development. The proposals call for at least 9,200 new homes in those areas.
This year’s review of the urban growth boundary followed a new process that allowed the council to look at the feasibility and likelihood of development in urban growth boundary expansion areas.
The Metro Council is required by law to ensure the greater Portland region has enough land in the urban growth boundary for 20 years of growth – so that even if the boundary weren’t expanded, all of the population growth between now and 2038 could be accommodated within the existing urban growth boundary.
Metro typically reviews the boundary every six years.
For the 2018 review, four cities put forth proposals and said they had areas near them that were ready for new communities. Three of those cities, Hillsboro, Beaverton and Wilsonville, already have significant housing developments underway, and the Metro Council said all three cities were ready to take on more growth.
"I’m no enthusiast for urban growth boundary expansions," said Metro Councilor Bob Stacey. "But if you gotta do it, and I think we do this time, then you should be doing it right, and I think we're doing it right this time."
Wilsonville was granted a 271-acre expansion that will add at least 1,325 homes to the city’s northeastern edge. Hillsboro’s 150-acre expansion near Witch Hazel Road will add at least another 850. And Beaverton’s 1,232-acre expansion on the southwest side of Cooper Mountain will see at least 3,760 new units of housing.
King City had asked for 528 acres to build a new town center on the city’s west end. It would be the first large-scale development in King City in decades, and Metro councilors and staff had concerns about King City’s ability to see the expansion through to development.
To help King City develop plans for its growth, the Metro Council encouraged King City to apply for a grant. The grant could pay for some of the staff time, consultants and engineering needed to plan for an expansion of the urbanized area.
A local farm owner, Lloyd Meyer, said he hopes to work with King City to help plan the future for his family's generations-old property.
"We shouldn't just be perpetuating suburban sprawl," Meyer said, "we should be building a city that we should be proud of."
But some property owners came to the Metro Council to express their displeasure with the expansion.
"Low income housing will bring down the value of the houses that are up there," said Mark Wallace, of the South Cooper Mountain area. "Everything’s in the $700,000 to multi-million dollar range."
Dan Brenner, a resident of the Rivermead community west of King City, said a road in the proposed expansion area would negatively impact him and his neighbors.
"Think of what the constant flow of traffic would do to the Rivermead community," Brenner said.
Still, the council decided that of the options available for expanding the boundary to meet the state's 20-year land supply requirement, the four options before them were the best.
"This process is different from what we’ve done before, we try to get better at this every single time, but one of the clear reasons this process is different is because all of us in the region invested time, energy and compassion into defining the urban and rural reserves that that map illustrates," said Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, in her final meeting after 12 years on the council. "So we are going through an entirely different process this time around and you and other members in your community have helped us do a better job through this process."
Stacey, a former land conservation advocate and attorney, said the vote reminded him about the difficulties of change and growth.
"Every part of this region is special. It’s difficult to project where we can make change without interrupting someone’s current circumstances," Stacey said. "If we’re careful and thoughtful and we listen to our citizens, that change can be positive."
The 2018 process, the first after a decade of significant reforms to the region’s growth management system, is a leap forward from the 2004 UGB review process, which compelled the Metro Council to expand the boundary in areas with the lowest-quality soil for farming and forestry.
That decision led to the much-derided massive boundary expansion in Damascus, which has, 15 years later, seen little development though areas are now being annexed to Happy Valley and appear more likely to develop with time.