With a unanimous vote on Thursday Feb. 2, the Metro Council approved an urban growth boundary exchange to accomodate City of Tigard's proposal for new housing development. This will encourage an expedited construction of new housing in greater Portland. The decision signals Metro’s commitment to working with all its partner jurisdictions to prepare areas for future housing construction within the guardrails of the urban growth boundary.
The process for expanding greater Portland's urban growth boundary typically requires a detailed growth analysis to determine whether the boundary has enough developable land to meet population and job forecasts. Thursday’s resolution leveraged a provision in Oregon land use law that allows for an expansion of the urban growth boundary in one area as long as a compensating amount of developable land is removed elsewhere — in other words, an urban growth boundary land exchange.
This is the first time that the Metro Council has undertaken an exchange of this kind, a decision that demonstrates the region’s adaptability and responsiveness in the growth of the urban footprint face of a housing crisis, while retaining Metro’s commitment to protecting farms and forests.
“This opportunity came to us because of our mid-cycle review timeline, which has us moving along at a three-year cadence instead of the traditional six-year cadence,” explained Councilor Christine Lewis, adding that “given the urgency of doing everything we can on housing, it is important that we move along swiftly.”
The City of Tigard received a Metro 2040 Planning and Development Grant to assist in funding the completion of a concept plan for the River Terrace area, consisting in total of approximately 500 acres. The vision for this development is a complete community that offers a full range of housing opportunities to meet the diverse needs of the citizens of Tigard while also providing accessible parks and open spaces. The development would include a transportation system that treats all modes equally, incorporating biking and walking trails.
The areas chosen to be removed from the current urban growth boundary in the exchange were identified through an analysis of development readiness and conversations with the neighboring cities. From this review, the areas identified as least likely to be developed in the next 20 years were found to be in Clackamas County.
During the lead up to the decision, the Clackamas County Commission issued a letter requesting the Metro Council hold the exchange decision until additional resources could be provided to help encourage development in Clackamas County. Metro Council President Lynn Peterson responded to the commission, encouraging the county to work with its cities to take advantage of Metro's grant programs that support planning for development while emphasizing the urgency of supporting the development of housing across greater Portland and the opportunity presented by Tigard's readiness to move forward.
“I was asked personally to slow this process down in order to have more time for Clackamas County to come up with alternatives that they would like to see,” acknowledged Councilor Lewis. “However, the punch here is that we are moving quickly and in real time to allow the next step, which is the comprehensive planning, which then enables the design and construction of new housing; housing that is at this point much needed.”
Metro Council President Lynn Peterson celebrated this exchange as another example of various jurisdictions coming together to solve problems that can only be solved at the regional level. “As a region we know that the only way we are going to get out of this housing crisis — and it is a crisis — is by working together to use the tools that we have to find solutions,” she said.
Feb. 2, 2023: This page has been updated. The prior version stated that the legislation was a resolution, and that the City of Tigard proposed the exchange. The City of Tigard requested an urban growth boundary expansion; Metro proposed the exchange process to accomodate the request.