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Mapping out the future of Wilsonville

by: MAP COURTESY CITY OF WILSONVILLE - The Frog Pond Planning Area is bordered on the south by Boeckman Creek Road, as shown here on a city map, and on the east by Stafford Road. Current projections suggest nearly 1,000 single-family homes could be built in the 181-acre area.The issue of housing density in Wilsonville is not going away anytime soon.

Specifically, the fact that nearly 60 percent of residential housing stock in the city consists of multifamily apartments, row houses or condominiums is garnering fresh resistance from planning commissioners and other city officials tasked with crafting a housing needs analysis as required by state law.

The housing study kicked off last spring and likely will not be completed until next spring. In the meantime, the city’s planning commission and city council are tackling the problem of how best to plan for the city’s future without knowing much about what that future is going to look like.

“There’s been some concern with the multifamily housing, which hasn’t been an issue for decades,” Commission Chairman Ben Altman said at a Nov. 13 meeting. “But it’s shown up recently, so it’s something you start to pay attention to. Are we still comfortable with the current plan in light of that?”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Ongoing development in Villebois is going to be needed to keep up with projected housing demand in Wilsonville in coming years.The housing needs analysis project is required of all cities in Oregon under statewide planning goals adopted in the 1970s. The analysis will establish a framework for the next 20 years of residential growth in Wilsonville, even in areas that are not yet within city limits. It also allows the city to meet state periodic review requirements, as well as growth management planning required by the Metro regional government.

The city prepared a draft housing study nine years ago in 2004, but it was never adopted into policy by the city council.

Now the city is giving it another swing in the midst of a development landscape that has thoroughly changed in the intervening period.

Wilsonville currently boasts 57 percent multifamily and 43 percent single-family housing thanks to the series of sizable apartment complexes that have been erected in recent years. Several commissioners spoke last week about the need to re-balance that ratio, something that also has been discussed at the city council level in recent months.

“The key is that if we’re going to create a document and plan that heads us down this road it creates impetus that’s hard to get off of,” said Commissioner Eric Postma. “By saying we have fixed parameters it becomes really hard to get off of. If at some time we want to correct this imbalance at some point we have to go talk with Metro.”

In light of the state’s metropolitan housing rule, which requires that cities and counties plan for 50 percent multifamily and 50 percent single-family housing, however, the city has few options aside from applying to Metro for a waiver.

“I’m not sure there is a way to address the question,” Postma said. “My concern is setting us down a course with no opportunity to take a different course down the road.”

The rule applies to cities and counties within Metro’s urban growth boundary. It treats the metro area as a regional market in terms of housing demand and buildable land supply and establishes minimum housing type and density standards for each city based on those regional figures.

Along with the 50 percent attached housing requirement, cities are also supposed to provide an overall density of 10 or more dwelling units per net buildable acre.

Some relief may be in sight, however, for those who wish to see a more equitable mix in Wilsonville. The 181-acre Frog Pond Planning Area on the east side of the city is slated for residential development in coming years, with nearly 1,000 single-family homes projected. Master planning of the area will begin in the coming months. But for some reason those projected homes were left out of an earlier Metro forecast of Wilsonville’s future housing needs, said Bob Parker, a senior planner with EcoNorthwest, the consulting firm hired by the city to assist with the housing analysis.

“We were looking at what they called the Wilsonville forecast,” Parker said. “And it didn’t include housing growth that was forecast for the Frog Pond area and other areas.”

That mistake was rectified for the current analysis, he said, adding 980 housing units to the mix, almost all in Frog Pond area. Revised estimates now show Wilsonville could need up to 3,749 new housing units over the next 20 years, an increase from Metro’s earlier projection of 2,769 units. Those future units are expected to be roughly 40 percent single-family attached dwellings and 40 percent multifamily units. The remaining 20 percent could be attached single-family units or something different altogether.

“Generally, though, the direction we’re headed in has not changed significantly,” said Katie Mangle, the city’s long-range planning manager.

As far as the current analysis is concerned, a map of buildable lands in Wilsonville is now being compiled, while city planning and legal staff are working together with EcoNorthwest on a development code analysis to determine what uses best fit the city for the future. A final report is scheduled for city council adoption in early 2014. From there it will be vetted by Metro and state agencies.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Some say Wilsonville has too many multi-family residential units - 57 percent of housing in the city is multi-family - and want to see more single-family homes like those in Villebois, shown here.




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