Four cities ask Metro to expand urban growth boundary
Four cities have formally requested that Metro expand the urban growth boundary it administers so their communities can add up to 9,232 new homes in the coming years.
The regional government will decide whether to approve any or all of the requests by the end of the year. The expansion requests come as the Portland area faces a severe shortage of all kinds of homes, creating price increases that are worsening the affordable housing shortage.
Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville all submitted requests by the May 15 deadline. Those actions followed preliminary requests submitted by their city councils last December. The Sherwood City Council, which initially requested an expansion to help build 5,155 new homes, chose not to submit a formal request — following a change of leadership and public opposition.
The four requests would add 2,181 acres inside the UGB. That's less than 10 percent of the 23,000 acres that have been designated as urban reserves, which are intended to provide enough land for 50 years of growth.
The four requests are as follows:
• Beaverton is asking to develop the entire 1,232-acre Cooper Mountain urban reserve. The request says the expansion could accommodate 3,760 new homes in the rapidly growing area that already includes a new high school and multiple new subdivisions in south Beaverton.
• Hillsboro is asking for a 150-acre expansion in the area known as Witch Hazel Village South on the southern edge of the city. The request says the expansion can help accommodate 850 homes.
• King City is asking that the UGB be expanded to include 528 acres in the Beef Bend South urban reserve, between the southern edge of the city and Roy Rogers Road. The request says the area can accommodate 3,300 new homes in four new neighborhoods.
• Wilsonville wants a 271-acre expansion in an area known as Frog Pond on the eastern edge of the city. It says the expansion would incentivize the development of 500 acres that would include the creation of three neighborhoods with up to 1,322 new homes.
All the requests say a variety of housing will be built in the expansion areas, including multifamily housing and units that are affordable to households earning 80 percent or less of the area's median family income. Metro staff will release an Urban Growth Report by late June, which will specify whether there is enough buildable land within the current UGB to accomodate 20 years of growth, as required by state land use planning laws. After receiving a recommendation from its chief operating officer in September, the elected Metro Council is scheduled to make a decision on Dec. 13.
New process to increase housing
All four cities are hoping to take advantage of a new process for expanding the boundary, which determines where growth can occur in the urbanized portions of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. For the first time this year, the Metro Council will consider detailed requests from cities to expand the boundary into adjacent urban reserves set aside for future development. The reserves were approved during the last few years after much study and controversy, especially in Clackamas County.
The change is intended to help assure that more housing will be built in the region. In the past, Metro could only expand the boundary onto lands not suitable for farms or forests, even if the properties were not ready for development. As a result, some previously approved expansion areas had no realistic plans for future development and have only grown fitfully, if at all.
When it asked for expansion requests last year, Metro said they must comply with other standards it adopted in December. Those include having approved concept plans for the areas that explain how needed infrastructure improvements will be financed. Cities looking to grow out must also show how they are "making room for affordable housing, particularly in business districts and transit corridors," Metro says.
In their requests, the four cities say the proposed expansions will result in complete new neighborhoods, with housing, retail centers, open spaces and bike and pedestrian trails. King City says its request would also result in a new Town Center with three- to five-story buildings, restaurants and other gathering spots, as well as a new City Hall.
Second review in three years
Oregon land-use laws require the UGB to always contain enough developable land to accommodate 20 years of projected population and employment growth. The area within the boundary contained about 259,000 acres in 2015, and a population of nearly 1.6 million people. The population within the boundary is estimated to increase to almost 2 million people by 2035.
The last time the Metro Council reviewed the UGB was in 2015. At the end of the year, the council decided that it did not need to be expanded, in large part because Portland had enough zoned capacity for new multifamily housing to accommodate almost everyone expected to move to the region over the next 20 years.
But that decision was controversial, with local home builders and others arguing that many if not most people eventually want to live in single-family homes — and that a shortage of single-family homes was on the horizon.
Although the council would not have normally reviewed the UGB again for another six years, it promised to conduct the next review in three years, which is why it is happening now instead of in 2021.
After the last decision, the affordable housing crisis has become the hottest political issue, prompting Metro to take a leadership role in addressing it. Although Metro has long required jurisdictions to include such housing in their growth plans, it launched an Equitable Housing Initiative led by Councilor Sam Chase several years ago. Now it is poised to refer a $652.8 affordable housing bond to the November 2018 ballot to help finance such projects throughout the region.
UGB by the numbers
Current size: About 259,000 acres, including rivers and other natural areas.
Population: About 1,583,000, as of 2015.
Future UGB population: Projected to be about 1,983,000 by 2035.
Tentative requested expansions: 2,181 acres.
Current urban reserves: About 23,000 acres (not all can be developed).
Current rural reserves (protected from development): About 269,000 acres.
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