Park it here
Few people dispute that parks are a great amenity to any city, enhancing livability and providing a draw for potential new residents and businesses. But exactly where those parks are located and what they will contain can be up for debate, an issue made very clear in Wilsonville in 2017.
In 2016 the City relocated and expanded the Memorial Park community garden area, in part to get away from the shade thrown by nearby tall trees, to a spot on the east side of the park and accessed from a neighboring street. This year planning began to relocate the Memorial's off-leash dog area to the same section of the park. Residents living near the newly-developed part of the park grew alarmed, concerned about increased traffic through their neighborhood and compromised safety on streets and intersections not designed for the non-residential volume of cars. After a series of sometimes heated public meetings, a traffic study and staff reports the City agreed to change access to the dog park/community garden, using a previously pedestrian-only crossing bridge and dead-end residential street.
Up in Villebois, residents near the Coffee Creek wetlands were dismayed this year to hear that a fully-realized park was planned for the vacant land along the wetlands, including playing fields and nature trails. Some homeowners nearest the site said they had been assured the area would remain a natural area and safe from active park development. The City approved an application for the park's development, however.
In quiet little Old Town, south of Fred Meyer, planning began this year in earnest to expand and enhance sleepy Boones Ferry Park, site of the former Boones Ferry river crossing. Using input from previous surveys regarding park amenities sought after by city residents, early draft proposals included a dramatically increased footprint using previously unused park areas, enhanced river access and more park features. While the public planning sessions were open to the entire community, they were largely attended by park neighbors — many of whom were concerned by the quality of life challenges brought by increased park use.
Growth in all its forms figured heavily in the news in 2017, including the impact of multi-family housing in Wilsonville. This spring we looked at the issue of dramatically rising rents in the community. We talked to housing industry experts who said Wilsonville's rents were increasing faster than many of Portland's suburbs, possibly due in part to heavy investment by large corporations buying up numerous properties.
The presence of all those apartment buildings — approximately 55 percent of households in Wilsonville are in multifamily residences — also figured into a new city ordinance allowing neighbors near apartment complexes to request special parking zones on the streets around their homes, effectively banning street parking by apartment residents and their guests. While streets in both commercial and residential areas of Wilsonville are by default open to parking by the public, the ordinance allows an exception if the majority of homeowners request it and can make a case that on-street parking by others has a significant negative impact.
If there was one thing sure to get folks to sit up and take notice more than high housing costs in Wilsonville, that was traffic. Take your pick: I-5 slowdowns, Wilsonville Road gridlock, red light-runners, dangerous intersections, excessive truck movement and poor pedestrian features — it all factored into the challenges of being a growing city surrounding a well-traveled interstate. Residents blamed city government, the city blamed the Oregon Department of Transportation and the State blamed a lack of funding.
Two major decisions to address traffic were made in 2017: adding red light cameras to the busiest intersection in town (Boones Ferry/Wilsonville Road) and investing in an additional stacking lane for I-5 south on-ramps.
Got a plan?
Wilsonville city planners and a cadre of outside consultants had a busy year in 2017, working on various stages of master plans for areas inside and outside the city. SMART, the city's transit system, finished a master plan to help with long-range goals, route changes and sustainability. And Wilsonville's Parks and Recreation Department began its master planning in earnest, surveying the public in an effort to inform what city residents want to see in Wilsonville's park (and recreation) future.
In July, the City adopted a master plan for the Frog Pond West Area in order to establish a "vision" for the area just east of city limits. The 500-plus acres (which includes the not-yet-designed eastern section) is envisioned as a mostly residential addition to the city, with sites set aside for parks, trails and schools.
And the "concept plan" for the undeveloped Basalt Creek area north of Wilsonville's west side turned into a tug-of-war with the city of Tualatin in 2017. Since the area in question lies between the two cities, both have a vested interest in how the now-county land develops in the future. Wilsonville primarily came to the table looking for more employment/industrial lands for its future and Tualatin was seeking more of a mixed bag, employment and residential. While the process began more than a decade ago, by 2017 the two municipalities hit a stalemate over a small sub-section of the Basalt area. Tualatin, which abuts the sub-area, wants the site to be zoned for residential use and Wilsonville insists that the area should remain set aside for industrial uses, as previously discussed. In the end both parties agreed to let Metro, the regional governmental body, make the call so the concept planning may continue.
The newest party guest at this year's Plan-a-Thon is the Wilsonville's Town Center, a mostly-1980s era residential/commercial section of the city seen by the City as overdue for an overhaul and "re-visioning." The project is still in the public part of the planning process, gathering input from resi-
dents and business owners. A master plan is in the works for 2018.
Where's the chief?
Wilsonville's practice of contracting with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office for police services is decades old but 2017 was a standout year for law enforcement in the city, as it saw the police chief position roll over three times before the year was out. 2017 began with Chief Jeff Smith, who took over the position in 2014. Smith had two decades of experience in law enforcement by the time he left Wilsonville in February when he was promoted to lead the county's detectives' unit. Replacing Smith was Adam Phillips, a special education teacher turned law enforcement officer who had spent his two-decade long career with Clackamas County. It was a short-lived transition however, as Phillips resigned this fall to move overseas. In October Rob Wurpes, a military veteran who most recently served as a public information officer for the sheriff's department, was sworn in as Wilsonville's new police chief.
A city in transition
It was a year of transition for several nonprofit organizations in Wilsonville as well. The 18-year-old Wilsonville Festival of the Arts welcomed a new director for this year's event, Sarah Wolfe, after several years of struggling with low attendance. Wolfe tweaked the event in several areas, adding interactive art installations and more elements attractive to kids and teens.
Fun the Park, another Wilsonville institution for local families, also had some changes in leadership after 15 years. The nonprofit organization began 2017 looking for a new leader, as veterans stepped down for other roles. Eventually Brady Mordhorst, owner of a Newberg-based event planning company, stepped forward to lead the event, which draws upwards of 10,000 attendees to Town Center Park every summer.
And after several years of dormancy, the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society was rebooted in 2017, electing a new board of directors and setting goals. The nonprofit has no dedicated funding source or physical space but has set 2018 as a year to organize and share its collection of donated historical items as well as preparing for the celebration of the city's 50th birthday.