Four cities in the greater Portland region submitted proposals to expand the urban growth boundary to add more developable land to their communities. Proposals by the cities of Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville would add a total of 2,200 acres and 9,000 new homes to the UGB.
Since 1979, the boundary defines where to build houses and businesses and which natural areas, including forests and farmland, to protect.
Over a dozen people testified at the Metro Council public hearing on Dec. 6. They spoke about how the proposed expansion would affect their neighborhoods, communities and natural areas. Many people expressed a desire to maintain current livability while planning for the future.
“People care about their communities and the environment,” said Ted Reid, a regional planner with Metro. “That’s why we take care with growth management decisions… We can’t stop population and job growth, but we can plan for it.”
Metro took a new approach during this decision process. All of the areas under consideration are in urban reserves. Metro set them aside for future development after careful analysis. The agency will continue to protect all rural reserves from development for the next five decades.
Each city had to demonstrate in its proposal where and how it would build homes, what natural areas it would protect, and how it would pay for needed infrastructure, such as pipes, roads, parks and schools.
“Metro is considering placing several conditions on proposed expansions to ensure growth happens in a thoughtful way,” Reid said.
Those conditions will guide cities as they refine their plans for these areas. Metro will call on cities to engage diverse communities in those next steps.
“Our hope is that the public remains involved in shaping their communities,” Reid said.
The Metro Council will vote on whether to expand the Urban Growth Boundary on Thursday, December 13.
Here is a sampling of what people said at the Dec. 6 public hearing:
Ron Johnson lives in Tigard by the current boundary of King City.
He worries about the changes new development could bring. “We recognize that growth is inevitable, and we accept that,” Johnson said. “But I think it has to be managed growth that’s taken upon very carefully and a lot of thought went in it. King City's plan is hugely dependent on this East-West road… and that road as it’s currently configured, it’s going to cut right through the heart of the community that's been planted and lived in since 1947. Our roots go deep here.”
Lloyd Meyer lives in King City.
Meyer, Johnson’s neighbor, voiced similar concerns about new development in King City. “Part of the concept plan for King City [is] to put one road to the … north side of our property, in the middle of my property and the south part of my property,” he said. “So you can imagine there are three roads in a little five and a half acre farm that might distract farming operations… I do hope that you take into consideration the fact that it is farmland and there are still need for farms for that next generation.”
Fran Warren represents the Cooper Mountain 175th Avenue Neighborhood Association.
Warren asked Metro to protect natural areas in new development plans. “Many of us are also saying that there is inadequate protection for the natural resources on Cooper Mountain,” she said. “There are no directives that say that we must protect core habitat, riparian habitats or corridors… It needs a mandate… so when we pass this ordinance, I would ask that you put something in it so that they have the legislative tools to be able to enforce [natural resource protection].”
Barbara Wilson lives in Beaverton.
Wilson would like to see Cooper Mountain Nature Park expanded. "I'm an advocate for wildlife," she said, "and Cooper Mountain Park is only two hundred and thirty acres. The park district has its intention to expand that regional park. But sellers involved have told the parks district that they wish to wait until they're included in UGB because they can get a higher price - or they believe they can get a higher price.”
Jennifer Sand lives near Cooper Mountain Nature Park.
Sand is concerned that new development will bring more traffic and more collisions. “I can't tell you how many accidents… just from the increased amount of traffic that is using on and around those roads on Cooper Mountain,” she said. “That's my biggest fear, is that the safety of where we live, by adding however many thousand new homes on Cooper Mountain, is just going to dramatically change our safety for the negative.”
Kris Balliet is the executive director for Tualatin Riverkeepers.
The watershed protection organization Tualatin Riverkeepers has been working with Portland State University professors and students to study extreme erosion sites in Tigard. The group has catalogued four sites of erosion around the Fisher Road extension proposed in King City.
Balliet asked that the road extension be removed from development plans. “We are concerned about major erosion sites along the river,” she said. “We are asking you to remove… the Fisher Road extension because of the impacts it would potentially have to both the tributaries and wetlands that are on that property as well as a major erosion site that exists in that part of the river.”
Paul Whitney is an ecologist with Tualatin Riverkeepers.
Whitney echoed Balliet’s statement. “Tualatin Riverkeepers is hopeful that these erosion issues can be addressed with urban growth boundary expansion,” he said. “[But] extension of the Fisher Road would not only add to the impact and the tiny drainage. It would be counterproductive to the mitigation that we're hoping that will happen in the future… We don't oppose the King City expansion, but what we recommend is that the extension of the Fisher Road be avoided.”
Mary Kyle McCurdy is the deputy director of 1000 Friends of Oregon.
She advocated for code changes to enforce greater density in the new developments. “Two thirds of our households in this region statewide, and around the country, are made up of one and two persons,” McCurdy said. “A detached single family house on a 5000, 10000, 20000 square foot lot is not meeting the housing needs or the affordability needs of middle income and lower income people across this region. We have an undersupply of smaller housing types or missing middle housing types and that's the only way we can meet our climate goals.”
Bradley Bondy lives in Milwaukie.
Bondy worries about how new development will contribute to climate change. “It is my generation who is going to be inheriting this earth,” he said. “And this pattern of development that these cities are proposing in these new areas is a huge part of the reason why we are facing this catastrophic climate change in the coming decades. Single family suburban sprawl is inherently auto dependent… If we want to be serious about climate change and really address our carbon emissions, we need to radically change land use patterns in the region.”
Traci Wheeler lives in Beaverton near Cooper Mountain Nature Park.
Wheeler advocated for protections against dense development to preserve the livability of her current area. “Before voting to this massive expansion, could you go back to Beaverton or the county… and ask them to consider very low density living to protect areas like mine?” she asked. “There is no designation for one home per one acre that I'm aware of. And if that's the case, if the guy behind me wants to sell, my home is going to be looking at 50 houses and I just don't think that that's true protection of livability in our area.”