Regional leaders voted Thursday to approve a plan to expand the urban growth boundary near Wilsonville for two schools and a park.
But the two-hour hearing brought to light some of the issues that come with boundary expansions, including a lengthy discussion about whether an area brought into the boundary in 2002 would be better suited for the school project.
Officials with the West Linn-Wilsonville School District say nearby Inza R. Wood Middle School is overcrowded, and a new middle school is needed in Wilsonville in the next few years. The district owns 40 acres southeast of the intersection of Advance, Boeckman, Wilsonville and Stafford roads, on the east end of the city. An elementary school and a park would also be built on the site.
But less than a mile away, a 100-acre-plus area, added to the UGB in 2002, sits largely undeveloped. The school district owns 25 of those acres in the area, known as the Frog Pond area.
Metro rules bar development in the Frog Pond area until the Wilsonville City Council adopts a comprehensive plan for the site. That was supposed to take shape a few years ago, but the Great Recession curbed those planning efforts, which are now expected to take place in the coming months.
The school district's preferred site wouldn't need a broader comprehensive plan.
Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, a land conservation advocate who once headed 1000 Friends of Oregon, tried to stake out a compromise with a proposed motion released Thursday.
Stacey's proposal called for Metro to expedite planning approval for the school at the Frog Pond area, which could allow a school to be built before the plans for the rest of the site are finished.
But Keith Liden, a planning consultant representing Wilsonville at Thursday's Metro Council meeting, said that could present problems for planning the remainder of Frog Pond. He said a middle school would have a footprint that's a minimum of a quarter-mile-plus in each direction.
"The regional standard for block lengths is a maximum of 500 feet," Liden said. The Advance Road site has no roads crossing it from the west, because of a built-up housing subdivision next to the site.
Stacey said it was clear Wilsonville needed a new middle school. But, he said, statewide planning goals led him to think that need should be met within the current UGB.
"I know this will complicate the process of negotiations… that's why it's premature to propose denying this application," Stacey said. Instead, a hearings officer should improve on the record for the project in hopes that all the planning hurdles could be cleared by the school district's targeted 2017 date for opening.
Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen, whose district includes Wilsonville, pointed to a hearings officer report on the issue, which said that "Metro staff believes that allowing the new urban area planning to be completed solely for the school district's property in the Frog Pond area is inconsistent with the code requirements, and is not good planning practice."
The hearings officer also pointed out that it was unknown if the school district could easily acquire the additional land it would need to build the park and elementary school in the Frog Pond area.
Other councilors also were more sympathetic to the school district's case than Stacey's proposal.
"I think there's a very strong case that the need is there, I think that's been clearly shown and I think where we are now is it's too burdensome to try to go back and tackle those issues at Frog Pond," said Councilor Sam Chase.
In the end, Stacey withdrew his motion after five of his colleagues said they'd vote against it. Councilor Carlotta Collette was on vacation and not at the meeting.
Stacey instead moved to approve the UGB expansion, which passed with a 6-0 vote of the council.