How important is feedback from the region's mayors in the Metro Council's 2015 urban growth boundary review?
Just take a look at this year's draft schedule for Metro Policy Advisory Committee: 12 of its 17 meetings are slated to feature a talk about the UGB.
But in the midst of legal wrangling about the future of urban reserves in Clackamas County, the path toward a UGB expansion in 2015 is mired in the weeds of Oregon land use law.
"There are more facets to this than you can shake a stick at," said Washington County Chair Andy Duyck.
On Wednesday, Metro Council President Tom Hughes met with mayors of the region's 25 cities, plus the chairs of its 3 counties, to lay out some of the options Metro is considering for the 2015 UGB review. Among them: Delay a decision into next year, expand using soil designations instead of urban reserves, or even end this review now but start another review earlier than scheduled.
Later that afternoon, at MPAC, deputy Metro planning director John Williams reiterated the issues.
"If this region wishes to use urban reserves to accommodate a need (for new growth), the timeline of that decision making has gotten a little more complicated," Williams said. "It is our conclusion that if we want as a region to have that option (of using urban reserves) available to us, it will not be available in Clackamas or Multnomah counties in 2015."
The Oregon Court of Appeals remanded the urban reserves in Clackamas County after Tualatin, West Linn and Lake Oswego objected to the designation of urban reserves near Stafford. But other parties have sought to slow down any resolution, in hopes that more of the urban reserves map can be re-drawn.
The urban and rural reserves were designated by Metro and the counties in 2010, after years of debate and public feedback. The fact that they're still in legal limbo, five years after the agreement, is frustrating to many regional leaders, said Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey.
"If you would ask the regional mayors if they want to try that process again, they would probably say 'Hell no,'" Willey said.
While Willey was disappointed with the process in the 2014 Legislature that settled the urban reserves in Washington County – Hillsboro lost hundreds of acres of potential future development land – he said a deal in Salem might be a preferable way to start the path forward.
"Realizing that I doubt any of us want to necessarily have the Legislature mandate those things to us, or be making those decisions, if it eliminates the court process, it might be very appealing," Willey said.
A Legislative deal, though, would likely focus on urban reserve designations, and might not deal with the UGB itself. Meanwhile, analysis from several economists, demographers and Metro staff shows that there is already enough land within the current UGB to accommodate 20 years of growth.
Since state law says the UGB has to have enough land for 20 years of growth, that would mean no expansion of the UGB this round.
"It appears to me that the current trajectory we're on is not going to lead to any appreciable expansion of the urban growth boundary anyway," said Duyck, the Washington County chair.
Duyck said he would lean towards ending the current UGB review, leaving the boundary intact. But, he said, he'd also like to see a new review of the UGB start as soon as possible.
"It's not the best way to go, but it's the least objectionable of all the options available to us," Duyck said.
Of course, neither Duyck nor Willey have too much stake in this UGB cycle. Neither Hillsboro nor Washington County have been vocal about an expansion in 2015 – unlike Wilsonville, in Clackamas County, which has actively sought an expansion on urban reserve land east of town.
Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said he and his city's staff are looking at what their options are for this year's UGB review.
"I'm somewhat frustrated that we are encountering a hurdle we didn't expect and that timelines are in question now," Knapp said Thursday, following a meeting of the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation.
The timing of a UGB expansion is important, Knapp said, because it can take years to finalize development agreements with the private sector before dirt can be turned in new-to-develop areas.
"The uncertainty of the extended timeline will affect private sector willingness to invest and commit to planning and coordination," Knapp said. "Wilsonville's experience with Villebois has been that it takes an extended period of time to build those public-private partnerships in way that enable us to develop the project with the thoughtful plans we want."