The city of Wilsonville is considering adopting a streamlined planning process for development in future industrial areas.

Known as form-based planning, it would replace much of the traditional development review process the city currently uses to vet residential, commercial and industrial applications. The city recent was offered at $63,570 transportation growth management grant by the state of Oregon to help rewrite city code and implement the new process, which essentially allows a development to automatically proceed if an applicant meets or complies with code requirements.

“It would be a much more rapid review, we wouldn’t need to spend the time analyzing site plans in the way we do now,” Wilsonville Planning Director Chris Neamtzu told city councilors at an Oct. 21 work session. “There would be more assurance for an applicant who checked all the boxes.”

Form-based codes are comprised of regulations and standards that must be presented in both words and clearly drawn diagrams and visuals; they require applicants to adhere to an appropriate form and scale of development, rather than only distinctions in land use types.

It also focuses on the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the relationship of buildings in relation to one another and the scale and type of streets and blocks.

Form-based codes have typically been used in downtown and main street areas, Neamtzu said. Wilsonville’s plan to use this tool in industrial areas is unusual and has not been used outside that realm to date.

“We think it’s an exciting toolbox type of tool, another arrow in our quiver,” Neamtzu said. “I’m not aware of this being done anywhere in Oregon.”

City councilors subsequently directed staff to formally accept the grant money through a program run by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Department of Land Conservation and Development. The money would be used to pay for grant-approved consultants to help with planning the needed code revisions.

This is more complex that it sounds. There would be a targeted public involvement effort that would solicit input from the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce, property owners, real estate professionals, developers and contractors who would work most closely with the new regulations.

City staff is poised to sign the needed intergovernmental agreements with the program to start the process.

The city’s planning commission will oversee the project and advise the council on its outcome.

The city intends that form-based code apply on to the Coffee Creek area in north Wilsonville. It might apply to the Basalt Creek area in the future, but much work remains on the part of the cities of Wilsonville and Tualatin before the latter even has agreed-upon boundaries, let alone is ready for development.

“We’re looking at the Day Road area and we’d look at the Coffee Creek area and it would be limited to that area,” Neamtzu said. “We wouldn’t be applying it to other parts of the community, unless it could apply to Basalt Creek at some time. I think that this is timely and worth taking advantage of the money that’s offered.”

Adding to the flexibility of the concept is the fact an applicant can choose to go outside the prescribed development limits of form-based code. If that’s the case, the current system of development review involving the city’s planning commission and development review boards would come into play.

“It doesn’t do away with the alternative process,” Goddard said. “There’s certainty to the outcome, and if you choose to deviate from that, there’s an alternative process that looks very much like the process we have today.”

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