Meetings next week will focus on plans for new elementary school

A steady stream of people attended an open house in the Forest Grove Community Auditorium last Thursday, March 2, to find out when they might see new homes popping up in the David Hill and Purdin Road areas and what the new developments would look like.

City staff and the Forest Grove Planning Commission members are still reviewing funding sources and infrastructure needs for roads, sewer, water and parks for the 375-acre Westside Planning Project, which could bring about 2,000 new homes to town.

All plans are preliminary at this point and could change.

The project includes the David Hill area, which has been inside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) since its inception decades ago, as well as the Purdin Road area, which was brought into the UGB more recently as part of the Grand Bargain, a land-use compromise crafted by the state legislature as it struggled to settle growth issues in the Portland metropolitan area.

Community Development Director Jon Holan said no attendees expressed major opposition to the project. The city did receive one written comment asking for a traffic light at the intersection of David Hill and Thatcher roads.

Most people wondered when construction would be complete. Forest Grove Senior Planner Dan Riordan estimated the earliest houses might appear five years from now.

But it depends largely on how long it takes to bring in infrastructure, which will be determined in the completed financial analysis. It will also depend on when or if the various property owners decide to annex their land into the city and sell to a developer.

"The property owners decide when development occurs," said Holan, adding that they don't have to do anything.

Marv Vanaken, who owns property near the intersection of David Hill and Thatcher roads within the proposed development site, grew up in the area and hopes to stay on his property as long as possible. "I would like to see it stay the way it is but I guess it's inevitable," he said. "I don't really know how I feel about it. It hasn't set in yet."

City planners expect the new development to meet the city's housing needs for the next 20 years. A Metro projection predicted that David Hill housing would be 94 percent absorbed by 2025.

"We want to be proactive, not reactive" to the housing demand in town, Holan said.

The development will feature mostly single-family homes. Some properties in the David Hill area will have one unit per acre. Most will have one unit per 10,000 square feet or 7,000 square feet.

There is some mixed-use zoning set aside, too, which would allow for a range of uses, Holan said, including multi-family homes, apartments and maybe even a new grocery store.

Many open house attendees also had questions about traffic and road improvements. Both Thatcher and David Hill roads need to be brought up to city code, Holan said, which would expand them to 40 feet wide. Right now, both are county roads. David Hill will gain a sidewalk on one side and a median west of Thatcher.

In addition, two new roads running north to south will lead to the Purdin Road area. They will be extensions of Main and B Streets.

Some attendees also had questions about land set aside for a new school. A 2014 analysis of the new development showed it would spark the need for a new elementary school in the Forest Grove School District.

The district started a long-range planning process in October 2016 with a committee made up of community members and district staff, according to FGSD Communications Director David Warner.

That committee will share their findings and plans with the community at four upcoming informational sessions: March 14 at Neil Armstrong Middle School, March 15 at Cornelius Elementary School, March 20 at Tom McCall West Upper Elementary School and March 22 at Forest Grove High School. All session will be held 6 to 8 p.m.

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