The City of Sherwood had a plan to greatly expand toward the west. Last month, that plan changed to much less growth. Then none at all. And next Tuesday, the City Council likely will pick one of the three options.
None of which will please everyone.
At the heart of the debate is this: The Portland metropolitan area is growing, and suburbs to the west — Sherwood, along with King City, Beaverton, Hillsboro and others — are likely to take on much of that growth in years to come. All of those cities sent "letters of interest" to Metro, the regional government that oversees land use issues, outlining their proposals to expand the urban growth boundaries westward.
The urban growth boundary is the invisible line around Portland and its suburbs, beyond which urban services, such as water and sewer, are not allowed.
Sherwood's initial ask drew sharp criticism from within the city itself. So much so that, at Monday night's meeting, city leaders debated withdrawing the letter of interest entirely — which would mean no boundary expansion — or modifying the ask.
Last year, the city sent a letter of intent to Metro expressing interest in expanding the UGB west of Sherwood by about 600 acres. But that plan drew concerns from many, including the Sherwood School District.
In a Tuesday, March 20, work session, the City Council decided tentatively to move forward with an alternative growth plan, which would grow the city by 373 acres south of the planned new Sherwood High School, in an area called Sherwood West.
On Monday, April 9, the city again addressed the issue, and even considered withdrawing its growth request entirely.
The council will address the issue again in its next planned meeting on Tuesday, April 17.
City Manager Joe Gall called this week's special meeting, after the Sherwood School District Board unanimously passed a resolution urging the City Council to withdraw its letter of interest — the document outlining the growth plan — from Metro. Members of the School Board are concerned that the school district wouldn't have the capacity to accommodate the growth that the UGB expansion would invite.
"Since state funding is largely based on enrollment and all of our schools are currently either near or exceed capacity, we typically update our demographic study each fall to assist with budgeting and facility planning," School Board Chair Eric Campbell wrote in an email to the Sherwood Gazette, The Times' sister publication. "The initial Letter of Interest for the Sherwood West UGB expansion was submitted after our last demographics update (fall 2017), so this land has never been included in any of these studies."
At Monday's meeting, the City Council considered one resolution, which, if passed, would have resulted in Sherwood withdrawing its proposal (called a letter of interest) to expand the UGB.
The public comment period, which lasted about an hour, included input from many Sherwood West property owners and real estate developers, who urged the City Council not to withdraw the letter of interest. Many said development likely wouldn't happen right away — according to Metro projections, perhaps not for up to a decade — so the school district and other institutions would have time to plan for the population surge.
"Expansion doesn't mean that hundreds of homes will suddenly overwhelm the schools, the roads, the sewers," said John Kearney, the owner of Portland-based You Realty, who is representing two Sherwood West property owners.
Sherwood residents who are against any expansion in 2018 also spoke, though they were outnumbered in this meeting by pro-expansion advocates.
Sherwood resident Doug Scott said he was originally in favor of expansion, but changed his mind after observing that the process seemed rushed, particularly in regards to planning for the school district and public utilities.
"This is the only chance we have to really say how fast Sherwood grows," he said.
Portland State University professor Gerard Mildner, a Beaverton resident, said his students currently are studying growth in the Portland area, and that they had determined Sherwood West is "quite amenable to subdivision development."
"The reason we're in this problem," Mildner said, referring to rising home prices in the Portland area, "is because our population growth has outstripped our land supply."
State Rep. Richard Vial, whose district includes Sherwood, spoke in favor of the UGB expansion. He said that if Sherwood fails to expand, it could have negative ripple effects throughout the region.
"If Sherwood backs off and makes no ask whatsoever, there will be growth in the region," Vial said. "We aren't going to be able to dodge it. And Metro is going to be under that much more pressure to either jam higher densities or more land into other areas, if they choose not to require Sherwood to grow."
After the public comment period, council members discussed the resolution. Mayor Keith Mays and Councilors Tim Rosener and Kim Young spoke in favor of passing the resolution at hand, and planning to instead submit a growth ask in three or six years. They cited the School Board's concerns as a key factor in their positions.
"There's a big disconnect right now in Oregon, of how we plan for land-use planning, and how we grow for school growth," Rosener said.
He added that although the public commenters at Monday's meeting were largely pro-expansion, "there are a lot of people in the city that are against this."
"Where are they tonight?" called out members of the public.
Rosener cited an informal online survey he conducted, in which 85 percent of participants were opposed to Sherwood submitting a growth request this year.
Councilors Sean Garland, Renee Brouse, Russell Griffin and Jennifer Kuiper said they were against passing the resolution on Monday. Garland said he had doubts as to whether Sherwood residents are fully educated on the UGB issue.
"People say, 'What about zero growth,'" he said. "That's not going to happen. We need to plan for the future."
Griffin expressed dismay that the school district had not sent a representative to speak at the council meeting.
The City Council ended Monday's meeting with the plan to readdress the issue at its Tuesday, April 17, meeting.
Requests are due to Metro in May, and the City Council has until its May 1 meeting to make a final decision on whether to submit a growth request. The Council must adopt a Housing Needs Analysis to the Sherwood Comprehensive Plan soon if it plans to submit a UGB request to Metro in May, as the analysis requires a 20-day appeal period.
Several councilors and public commenters expressed hope that the Sherwood School District and Sherwood West property owners might have a chance to meet and discuss the UGB expansion before next week's council meeting.
However, the Sherwood School District and Metropolitan Land Group, one of the major property owners in Sherwood West, currently are in a legal battle concerning land purchases for the new Sherwood High School. That may make it difficult to arrange a meeting between the two parties.
After the meeting came to a close, Rep. Vial told the Gazette that Sherwood is the most important city in his district, and that he hopes stakeholders can come to an agreement before next week's meeting.
"There are two paradigms in politics — talking or fighting," Vial said. "It's always better to talk than to fight."
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