Staff's growth boundary options include Washington, Clackamas counties
Metro staff told councilors Tuesday that the region needs more industrial land near Hillsboro, the first step toward the Metro Council's 2011 decision on the urban growth boundary.
That wasn't too much of a surprise – staff recommended the same expansion in 2010, before the Metro Council decided to delay the boundary decision by a year.
But the staff suggestions on residential expansion were a different story. Whereas the 2010 report specifically recommended the Metro Council add the 1,063-acre South Hillsboro area as a residential expansion, this year's report recommends the council look at seven potential locations for new residential areas in the region.
South Hillsboro should still be looked at first, staff said. "But this year, we highlighted other areas," said Metro planner Tim O'Brien.
Or, O'Brien said, the council could elect to keep the urban growth boundary as-is.
A quick primer
How could the Metro Council decide to hold the line, so to speak?
It's helpful to review how the urban growth boundary works. Metro is mandated to keep a 20-year supply of developable land within the boundary, and review the boundary every five years. But because, in part, of the problematic expansion of 2002, which included bringing 18,000 acres of the unplanned and difficult-to-develop Damascus area into the boundary, further expansions were put on-hold until the process was re-examined.
That re-examination process led to the designation of urban reserves, areas where urban growth boundary expansions would be targeted for the coming decades. But last October that plan was partially rejected by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission, which reviews land use decisions.
That rejection led Metro to put off the scheduled 2010 urban growth boundary decision for one year, in part so the reserves map could be adjusted. The state commission is scheduled to review the latest reserves proposal in August.
But how does the Metro Council decide how much land to add to the boundary?
Remember that 20-year supply mandate? Metro uses its population and demographic forecasts to decide how many new residential units will be required in the region. The forecast presents a range, starting with a low-growth scenario and working up.
The low-growth scenario says the region would have a surplus of 2,900 housing units for the coming 20 years, so no urban growth boundary expansion would be needed.
But staff is generally targeting the "middle third" of the forecast range – the Goldilocks scenario where Metro would be "just right," despite inevitable claims from land conservation advocates that it is adding too much land to the boundary, and from developers who say it added to little.
In that middle third scenario, the Metro Council would need to add enough land for 15,400 to 26,600 new housing units in the Portland region.
Where would the new homes go?
Ultimately, the Metro Council decides where the urban growth boundary expansions will be, if one happens at all. The short-and-sweet answer is in South Hillsboro, which has a master plan completed, is located near major transportation infrastructure and is unlikely to generate strong opposition from land conservation advocates.
But South Hillsboro is also part of a tug-of-war between Metro and Hillsboro about how many residential units the area could eventually have. Hillsboro has called for about 12 units per acre for the site, meaning the area could have about 8,200 housing units. Metro wants South Hillsboro to have 15 units per acre, or more than 10,000 homes.
By comparison, typical subdivided lots in the city of Portland are about 5,000 square feet, or about 9 units per acre.
"Constraints in other UGB candidate areas mean that the South Hillsboro area likely needs to achieve higher densities in order to help the region achieve the 15 units per net buildable acre average in future UGB expansion areas," according to Metro staff in the report issued Tuesday.
But Hillsboro planners have argued that areas such as the proposed AmberGlen development near Tanasbourne should accommodate the city's future dense development.
Even at 15 units per acre, South Hillsboro alone couldn't accommodate all of the housing units needed in that middle third of the growth forecast.
Two of the areas that staff recommended for council review are southwest of Beaverton. A 543-acre area northwest of the intersection of Scholls Ferry Road and Roy Rogers Road could bring in more residents to support the Murray Scholls town center. Another possible expansion, the so-called Roy Rogers West area, wasn't on the list of recommendations in 2010, but was added after Tigard and Washington County completed a concept plan for the West Bull Mountain area. The Roy Rogers West area is 256 acres.
Put together, the two could provide as many as 6,500 housing units.
Two more possibilities were highlighted in Washington County – a 210-acre area south of Cornelius and a 496-acre area west of Sherwood.
Staff also suggested the council consider two expansion areas in Clackamas County – a 316-acre area east of Wilsonville, called Advance, and a 573-acre area east of Oregon City, called Maplelane.
Land for jobs
In 2010, Metro staff recommended the council add a 310-acre plot north of Hillsboro, between the city limits and the Sunset Highway, for large lot industrial land. The Meek Road area has seven large lots and is just west of the Brookwood Parkway exit on U.S. 26.
That's on the low end of what was called for in the 2010 Urban Growth Report, which said the region could add up to 1,500 acres for employment land. But Metro and other regional officials have been working on developing a replenishment system for large lot industrial sites, so that if a lot in an industrial area is developed, it could quickly be replaced by another developable site without waiting for the next scheduled urban growth boundary review.
The Metro Policy Advisory Committee voted 9-8 last year to support the North Hillsboro industrial expansion. The Metro Council voted in late 2010 to say it intended to add 310 acres for industrial use this year.
The decision on whether, and where, to expand the urban growth boundary is set for late October. But a few key steps are coming up fairly soon. An open house on the expansion proposal is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 28 at the Hillsboro Civic Center, 150 E. Main Street. Two weeks before that, Metro's Opt In panel will get a survey about the urban growth boundary decisions.
The Metro Policy Advisory Committee will make its recommendation on the boundary expansion proposal in September, and the Metro Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. Oct. 6 at a location to be determined; the final public hearing, and scheduled vote on the expansion, is planned for 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Metro Regional Center.