Residential development has picked up in Cornelius, and city staff want to know what to plan for the future.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - While Laurel Woods is expected to add close to 900 housing units to Cornelius, the neighborhood will be predominantly comprised of single-family detached houses. The city wants to commission a housing needs analysis to determine what types of housing it will need built in the future.It's no secret; the cat's out of the bag — Cornelius is growing.

But even as houses rise in the new Emmert's River West subdivision between South 10th and 12th streets and infrastructure work continues at the gargantuan Laurel Woods neighborhood under construction in the southeast, Cornelius is planning to commission a new study that city staff hope will shed light on what types of housing the city still needs.

Cornelius community development director Ryan Wells said the city expects to receive a technical assistance grant from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development to conduct a housing needs analysis.

"That's our quantitative reference — what we use to justify the growth and the types of housing that are coming in," Wells said.

The last housing needs analysis that was conducted for Cornelius was in 2009, Wells said, so this analysis would essentially serve as a 10-year update. That analysis led the city to pursue more single-family detached housing, including that being built now in River West and which will be built at Laurel Woods as the neighborhood takes form.

Although he can't say for sure, as the analysis has yet to be conducted, Wells said he thinks it will suggest Cornelius complement those new single-family houses with multifamily housing — a higher level of density that is relatively uncommon in Cornelius.

In neighboring Forest Grove, two new apartment complexes have already opened this year, with a third, the downtown Jesse Quinn Apartments, slated to welcome tenants this fall. In Cornelius, a limited number of apartments for seniors on limited incomes are included as part of the Cornelius Place project, but the building's best-publicized purpose is to provide the Cornelius Public Library with a much larger space.

Regardless of what the analysis concludes, Wells said he was "thrilled" to hear of the technical assistance grant program, and city officials are optimistic that they will be a recipient.

"For us to try to conjure up the money, hire a consultant and get all of this done, or try to do a portion of the work just in-house, with all of the other stuff we have going on, it just wasn't looking realistic," Wells said. "And so it was really quite fortunate that DLCD released this program, and we're appreciative of it."

If commissioned, the housing needs analysis will have to be presented to the Cornelius City Council no later than June, according to Wells. That's early enough that planners will be able to write the city's town center master plan, scheduled for completion by the end of 2019, to reflect the conclusions it draws. That master plan is intended to guide future development along the Highway 8 corridor in downtown Cornelius, a prime area for new high-density housing.

"We would have to roll in some of those elements into the town center plan so that there's a correlation between the housing types, design standards, densities, things like that, and how it comes out from the HNA process," Wells said.

Housing needs analyses are often twinned with economic opportunities analyses. While the former looks at how many acres of residential zoning will be needed, and what the desired housing density will be, in the future — usually over a 20-year timeframe, Wells said — the latter effectively does the same for commercial and industrial zoning. A few miles to the north of Cornelius, North Plains is in the process of finalizing an economic opportunities analysis as it also experiences major growth.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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