At the May 1 Wilsonville City Council work session, landowner tensions ran high as City staff, along with KPFF consultant Matt Dolan, gave the council an update on the Basalt Creek central subarea planning efforts.
The positive results of the employment use feasibility study didn't smooth feathers, but it did provide further direction for council to move forward with boundary negotiations.
The Basalt Creek planning project, dating back to 2004, has had multiple concept maps with various land use designation and proposed boundary lines for the cities of Wilsonville and Tualatin, currently on either side of the Basalt Creek area. The Wilsonville City Council and staff felt that they had arrived at a plan of action in October 2016 with partners Tualatin, Washington County and Metro, designating the majority of the land as industrial employment land. But in February 2017, Tualatin suggested rezoning a roughly 40-acre section of the land called the "central subarea" as residential due to large sections of the land having steep slopes and uneven topography.
At the March 20 work session, the Wilsonville council reviewed previously established guiding principles, concept maps and proposed zoning that had been tentatively agreed on at previous joint-planning meetings and came to the conclusion that "the shift was not consistent and did not support a number of those objectives, principles and investments."
Wilsonville stood firm with its intention to promote industrial land use zoning and commissioned a third-party consultant to conduct an employment use feasibility study. The study has now been completed and the subarea was found to be feasible as employment land. In light of this finding, the Wilsonville council is pursuing boundary renegotiation.
"The Basalt Creek Parkway (as the boundary) was part of a conditional agreement that also had a set of 10 considerations for success," Wilsonville Planning Manager Miranda Bateschell said at the May 1 work session. "So since portions of those considerations have not been followed through on or committed to this year (by Tualatin) and with that (land use zoning) shift, this conditional agreement is not in play."
"Therefore, there is no boundary," Council President Scott Starr added.
"Correct," Bateschell confirmed. "The second reason is that this is the task that we were given by the region. In reading the (intergovernmental agreement) IGA, the partnership and the work that we're supposed to be doing, we're supposed to look at this as one big planning area as if it were one city."
Bateschell said in her presentation that the study was not commissioned to determine "the highest and best use" of the land or the cost of development, but rather if using the land for employment is possible.
"We know that employment takes patience and that it's not always the easiest," Bateschell said. "So we really started from that position and we asked, 'Is it feasible and does it make sense for all of us, including Metro and the county, to remain committed to that objective of industrial, employment uses of that area? Because if it's not feasible, then we shouldn't remain committed to that; but if it is, then we should."
To perform the study, KPFF consultant Dolan conducted a building survey in Tualatin, taking existing warehouses and industrial parks and scaling those existing projects to the central subarea. He showed renderings with offices, warehouses and other industrial and manufacturing in that area, giving several hypothetical examples of development. The development examples showed buildings of 400,000 to 800,000 square feet of space, with various grading and sloping parking areas. All of the renderings incorporated the PGE power lines with the appropriate easement. Dolan said that with leveling and grading, the land could feasibly be used for industrial, employment land, although the KPFF study did not include an estimated cost of development.
Starr asked Dolan for his opinion of building on the slabs of basalt rock that are strewn through the subarea. Dolan said that "the rock itself is a highly weathered basalt rock" that can be excavated, but that rock located deeper down would require more effort to excavate. But Dolan said that "all of the good, easy property in the region has already been developed," so even though the land will present some difficulties because of the basalt rock, the land is still viable.
"These are people's properties," Starr said. "If there is no market, you can call it whatever you want but, if there's no market, then nothing would happen... We don't want to box anyone into a corner that they can't get out of."
In an email to the Spokesman May 3, landowner Herb Koss expressed his frustration with the work session and why the City didn't ask Dolan to give his opinion of the land's "highest and best use" as well as the cost of grading the land.
"In all of my years in the development business the Wilsonville Council meeting was one of the most irrational meetings that I have ever been involved with," Koss said in the email. "Our land is not suited for an office park or warehousing, which is obvious to everyone except the Wilsonville Staff, Mayor and some of the Council members. Yes, I am very disappointed in the attitude shown by the Mayor, Council and Staff. I am sure that many in Tualatin feel the same."
Regarding what the best use of the land in question might be, Dolan declined to comment when asked May 4, adding that the scope of his study didn't include that metric.
By the end of the May 1 meeting, the council directed staff to go back to the drawing board with boundary negotiations, with their preferred alignment occurring near or at Tonquin Road with most of the central subarea falling within Wilsonville's UGB.
"There's a reasonable argument to be made that if Tualatin isn't committed to this manu-
facturing park area," Mayor Tim Knapp said, "then maybe Wilsonville should be responsible for it."