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Study to guide Wilsonville housing policy

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Villebois continues to exemplify the direction Wilsonville wishes to go when it comes to housing. City officials are now hoping to apply that to the future Frog Pond and Advance Road planning areas on the east side of the city. The city of Wilsonville’s ongoing housing needs analysis reached a milestone recently with the completion of a new residential lands study.

The study encompasses several months of work by city staff to evaluate the city’s current single- and multifamily housing stock and compare it with projected housing needs up to 20 years into the future. The document, which emphasizes Wilsonville is likely to run out of residential land capacity during that time period, is intended to formally guide city policy.

Another key aspect of the report notes that the city has wide latitude when it comes residential planning in the Frog Pond and Town Center areas. However, a number of time-consuming amendments to the city’s development code and comprehensive plan are needed to comply with state planning Goal 10, which deals with housing.

“Wilsonville has a strong vision in the comprehensive plan about neighborhoods, and we’re implementing that vision, particularly when it comes to Villebois,” Wilsonville Long-range Planning Manager Katie Mangle told the city council at a Feb. 20 work session. “We have a variety of housing types and we’re complying with state density and housing mix requirements. Many cities have long lists of things to fix, but we don’t really have a long list. We have a local plan and we’re implementing it.”

One of the most important findings in the study will come as little surprise to those following development trends in Wilsonville in recent years. The city has seen an explosion of multifamily housing projects, notably the Brenchley Estates project on the site of the former Thunderbird mobile home court. This has pushed the city’s housing stock ratio to 57 percent multifamily versus not quite 43 percent single-family homes.

By contrast, the state recommends an evenly split 50-50 mix, giving Wilsonville the option to pursue predominantly single-family development in the future, should the city move to correct the current imbalance.

“In Frog Pond we have a lot of leeway to plan for that,” Mangle said.

Other notable findings in the report call on the city to add a clear and objective review process for future residential development in the Old Town neighborhood; add a clear and objective site design review process for standalone residential development; allow duplexes in all planned development-residential zones; and prohibit mobile homes in planned development-commercial and planned development-industrial zones.

City staff now is preparing the report and its findings for future adoption by the council into the city’s comprehensive plan.

Meanwhile, recommendations from the study will be applied this spring as the city starts planning in earnest for development in the Frog Pond and Advance Road growth areas. Over the next month the city expects to hire a consulting firm to start crafting the scope of planning work to be done. Documentation of existing site conditions, including land uses, tree canopy, wetland conditions and utilities, already has started.

Many questions remain, foremost among them the number of residential units that will eventually be built in the Frog Pond area north of Boeckman Road and west of Stafford Road. Under existing Metro growth projections, Wilsonville is expected to see less than 2 percent annual growth, a figure that will greatly inform how many homes eventually will be built.

Historic growth rates, however, are nearly double the Metro projections, which are developed using a wide range of regional data.

“I’m curious, because I don’t understand how the system works,” Mayor Tim Knapp said. “If the historical growth rate graph says our actual 10-year rate is 2.8 percent and we’re now in 2014, four years after that, why doesn’t the Metro model get updated to something that appears to be closer to reality?”

Part of why this has happened, Mangle responded, is that Metro is working at a regional level. She told Knapp Metro staff is interested in the city’s specific housing data that is being collected.

“They are aware of the variance?” Knapp asked.

“To a certain extent,” said Mangle.

“We need to depend on more localized information,” Knapp replied. “And that’s the point I’d hope we’d go back to Metro with.”

“We can make a better argument if we feel we need more land for the next 20 years,” said City Manager Bryan Cosgrove.

“But just on its face,” Knapp said, “something like that, 14 years ago we were able to demonstrate the forecast was not what the reality said it would be.”



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