2013: Nothing small about North Bethany
Editor's note: This story is part of the The Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that captivated readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
"The times, they are a-changin'," Bob Dylan famously sang.
It was true when Dylan recorded that song in 1963, and it was true 50 years later, as fields and farmland in northeastern Washington County gave way to suburban development.
Construction started on North Bethany, an 800-acre area north of Northwest Springville Road, in summer 2013. It has rapidly filled in since then, apartments and townhouses and single-family homes blending in nearly seamlessly with the rest of Bethany — almost as if they had always been there.
But North Bethany very nearly wasn't there at all.
Washington County and many local property-owners, hoping to profit from development on unincorporated land north of Beaverton, lobbied hard for Metro to expand the urban growth boundary in 2002. Metro agreed, but some other property-owners, wanting to preserve the rural character of the area, appealed the decision. The ensuing litigation wasn't resolved until 2005.
The city of Beaverton was originally expected to handle urban planning for North Bethany, but the city backed out, concluding that North Bethany was too far from city limits for it to be a reasonable use of municipal resources. Instead, Washington County took over — and soon concluded that quite a bit of work had to be done before North Bethany was ready for an influx of residents and new development.
A transportation plan was needed, the county said. Officials managed to find the money to do the planning, widen roads and build new thoroughfares in the area.
People of lower incomes shouldn't be boxed out of North Bethany, the county concluded. Officials decided to incentivize "affordable housing" and encourage a mix of home types.
Even still, there was no consensus that developing North Bethany was the right thing to do.
Greg Malinowski, then a Washington County commissioner whose district included the entire Bethany area, was a vocal critic of the county's planning work.
"I think the public will subsidize North Bethany too much," Malinowski argued in 2013, "and many people won't be able to afford to live there."
But Andy Duyck, then-commission chair, said that by mid-2013, the project was more than ready to go.
"If anything, I think we took too long and got too far into the weeds," Duyck complained of the extensive planning.
After a July 2013 groundbreaking, North Bethany blossomed quickly.
In 2017, the Beaverton School District opened Sato Elementary School, joining Springville Elementary School — which opened in 2008 — as one of two primary school campuses located in the North Bethany area.
Commissioner Malinowski, meanwhile, won re-election in 2014, but he was defeated in the May 2018 primary by Pam Treece, who now represents Bethany and other parts of northern Washington County. Duyck did not run for another term in 2018.
It's not yet known by how much the addition of North Bethany has increased the unincorporated Bethany area's population. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 20,646 residents of Bethany. In 2013, county officials estimated that up to 10,000 new residents could move into the North Bethany area alone. The Census Bureau is expected to report a new population count for Bethany in December 2020.
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