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Full steam ahead


City's growth rate continues to outstride neighbors

by: JOSH KULLA - The 500-acre Villebois development in Wilsonville is currently just half built, with 1,000 homes completed out of a planned 2,600. Anyone who has lived in Wilsonville for even just a few years has seen the city grow substantially. There has been new housing popping up across the city, new businesses moving in and increases in traffic.

This is no surprise. The city, in fact, has planned for it.

However, Wilsonville’s rate of growth is one of the fastest in the entire state, according to 2013 population estimates by the Portland State University’s Population Research Center. Falling behind Portland, Salem and Eugene, Wilsonville had the fourth largest population jump last year in the state, growing from 20,515 residents in July 2012 to 21,550 in July 2013, a change of 5.05 percent.

Though the other cities welcomed more residents than Wilsonville, the percentage in population growth is much smaller because the size of their cities is greater. Portland grew 0.72 percent, Salem 0.84 percent and Eugene 0.79 percent.

The rate of growth in neighboring cities doesn’t even come close to Wilsonville. Hillsboro grew just 0.85 percent, Tigard grew 0.90 percent, Tualatin grew 1.49 percent, Sherwood grew 1.70 percent and Newberg grew 1.26 percent.

The state of Oregon, as a whole, gained 35,290 people, according to PRC. According to the preliminary July 1 population estimates, Oregon’s population increased from 3,883,735 in 2012 to 3,919,025 in 2013. This increase represents a 0.9 percent change, slightly higher than in the previous year (0.7 percent). The increase in 2013 is around 9,200 higher than added in 2012. According to PRC, for some perspective, average annual population growth of the 2000s was 41,000; during the 1980s, which were economically more challenging times, the average annual increase was around 21,000, and in the more prosperous times of the 1990s, it was around 58,000 per year.

PRC credits population growth to two factors: natural increases (births) and people moving in. From 2012 to 2013, the state’s population grew mostly due to net migration (66 percent) than to births (34 percent).

For Wilsonville’s planning director, Chris Neamtzu, PRC’s report was no surprise, as the city keeps a working population projection. As one of the few outer ring suburbs butting up against the urban growth boundary with large parcels of land still available for development, the city expects to continue its current rate of growth.

Between 2000 and 2012, Wilsonville added 6,500 new residents, an increase of 47 percent, according to the city’s 2013 Wilsonville Residential Land Study. In the past, Wilsonville’s build-out population estimate was 35,000 people. However, that number could be higher depending on the pending growth boundary changes.

“There’s a number of things at play,” Neamtzu said about the growth, pointing to the natural trend of Oregon remaining a popular place for young people to move to, especially the Portland area. “They are looking for vibrant cities, outdoors, camping.”

Then, folks start looking to settle down outside of Portland.

“People look around, and Wilsonville is a very nice city,” Neamtzu said. “People are attracted to the livability of the community.”

Neamtzu points to Wilsonville’s easy access to transportation such as Interstate 5, the top-rated schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District as well as the city’s “topnotch” parks. “And, we’ve become a full-service city,” he added.

“I think people are drawn here. I think we’re a jewel in the region,” Neamtzu said.

To keep that attraction and livability, the city maintains a 20-year plan, which is being updated this year. The Statewide Planning Goal 10 Housing Needs Analysis is designed to meet Oregon’s review requirements along with planning for the Frog Pond and Advance Road areas, according to the city.

Included in the analysis is a city residential lands study. The analysis may result in minor code changes after a public forum and a commission work session in February.

“It’s important for us to understand where we are at, who we are planning for and where we are going,” said Katie Mangle, long-range planning manager. “The demand for housing doesn’t appear to be waning.”

The city’s focus is turning to areas outside city limits that are next on tap for development, including Frog Pond in the east, Coffee Creek to the north and continuing Villebois in the west.

The goal is to designate land so half of new housing is either multifamily or single-family attached housing, create an average density of eight dwelling units per acre and provide enough land to handle housing needs for the next 20 years.

Currently, the city’s housing stock is half multifamily, 41 percent single-family detached and 9 percent single-family attached. With more recent development of multifamily housing, Neamtzu predicts the pendulum to swing back to more single-family detached housing.

The 500-acre Villebois development is currently just under half built, with 1,000 homes completed out of a planned 2,600. There are six different subdivisions currently under construction in the city and the 181 acres in Frog Pond could hold between 800 and 1,000 single-family detached homes, according to Neamtzu. He predicts 2014 might be the city’s biggest year for housing construction.by: JOSH KULLA - The Fred Meyer store in Wilsonville didnt get built for years because the interchange couldn't handle the predicted traffic counts. Now, the I-5-Wilsonville Road interchange is rebuilt to handle traffic for the next 20 years.

However, it hasn’t always been steady home construction in Wilsonville. In 2008-09 and in 2010-11 the city recorded virtually no population growth and some years infrastructure deficiencies halted construction.

“We’ve put the brakes on development several times,” Neamtzu said.

In the late 1990s, the city’s ground water aquifer was quickly depleting at an “alarming rate” and the city didn’t have enough water to accommodate new growth. Soon after the Willamette River Water Treatment Plant was built, and construction could continue.

Then, traffic and transportation strains stopped development. The Fred Meyer store didn’t get built for years because the interchange couldn’t hand the predicted traffic counts. Now, the I-5-Wilsonville Road interchange is rebuilt to handle traffic for the next 20 years.

“The success of Wilsonville is tied to the health of the interstate and the interchange — not put pressure on them,” Mangle said.

Smart planning for future growth has been a staple for Wilsonville staff.

“Our success is good planning,” Neamtzu said. “The city is growing rapidly, yet thoughtfully. ... This tremendous growth didn’t just all of a sudden happen.”

The city maintains a master plan that tracks housing types along with transportation needs. They work with the school district to ensure smart growth, such as the recent partnership to bring in the Advance Road property into the UGB for a future school.

“It’s challenging ... but this community does a good job in planning for the future,” Neamtzu said.

Along with adding residents, Wilsonville also wants to add jobs for the people coming in. The city is seeing bits for more retail opening up and there has been a focus on filling the warehouses that emptied during the recession. The goal is a complete community where residents can live, work and recreate. Currently, only roughly 1,000 people both live and work in Wilsonville, according to the land study.

The PRC preliminary population estimates can be found on PRC’s website at pdx.edu/prc/population-estimates-0. The city’s residential lands study can be found at ci.wilsonville.or.us/index.aspx?page=1162.

Residential land study public forum set

The Wilsonville Committee on Citizen Involvement invites the public to learn about the results of the Wilsonville Residential Land Study and comment on the recommended strategy for accommodating housing in Wilsonville as it grows.

This study is looking ahead to understand the city’s housing needs over the next 20 years. It includes information about the community today and how new neighborhoods should be planned.

The presentation will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 8, followed by a question and answer discussion. The forum will be held at city hall, 29799 SW Town Center Loop East.

The draft study can be found at ci.wilsonville.or.us/goal10housing. For more information, contact Katie Mangle, long-range planning manager, at 503-570-1581 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lori Hall can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 103. Follow her on Twitter, @wspokesman.