Handling growth focus of North Plains State of the City address
Two years ago, North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan told a crowd of residents to prepare for rapid growth.
She made the comments at North Plains' 2018 State of the City address, an annual event that serves as an update about what's happening in the city and what officials hope to accomplish in the year ahead.
At the time, city officials were aware of projections that said the city would double in size in the next five years, as more people move into western Washington County to avoid high housing costs to the east.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, Lenahan had a similar message about growth in her 2020 State of the City address — but this time, she touted, among other accomplishments, the city's efforts to manage that growth.
"We have our work cut out for us," Lenahan said. "I am optimistic about our steady progress and hopeful that our city leadership continues to be thoughtful about the current and future changes on our horizon."
Lenahan noted that city officials have been working to update planning documents, among other efforts to help North Plains stay on course and be ready for the growth to come.
North Plains is a city of about 3,300 people, according to the most recent estimates from Portland State University, which conducts an annual population study. Less than 10 years ago, it had fewer than 2,000 residents. Officials expect it to grow by thousands more in the coming years.
Much of the growth the city anticipates in the near term will be concentrated in two large housing developments.
In 2019, the city adopted the Brynhill Master Plan for a housing development in the northern part of the city that will add about 500 homes — including multifamily housing — and potentially new retail space as well.
"Embracing this change has not been easy for some," Lenahan acknowledged. "However, the policymakers and many residents have put countless hours into planning for this development."
The Sunset Ridge developments on the city's eastern edge have been separated into three phases. About 100 homes in the Sunset Ridge I development have already been completed, along with another 200 homes in Sunset Ridge II.
This year, North Plains will plan out an expansion of its urban growth boundary, which will provide space for an additional 800 homes. City planners recently conducted a housing needs analysis — in plain terms, figuring out how many new homes the city will need in the foreseeable future — which determined that new housing is necessary as North Plains keeps growing.
The third phase of the Sunset Ridge developments will be within the city's new urban growth boundary.
North Plains will work to ensure all city infrastructure can handle the growth by developing a new five-year capital improvement plan in 2020, Lenahan said.
"If you haven't noticed, the groundwork on our 2 million-gallon water reservoir and pump station on (Northwest) West Union Road started last month and is expected to be operational in the summer of 2021," Lenahan said, adding that the facility will provide three days' worth of water in case of emergency.
In August 2019, the city adopted a new transportation system plan, which Lenahan said will ease the impact of more traffic, add sidewalks and crosswalks, and transform Northwest North Avenue into what urban planners like to call a "complete street," with capacity for not just cars and trucks, but also bicyclists and pedestrians.
In 2020, two new walking trails will be completed as part of North Plains' transportation plan. The Ghost Creek Trail will be located near the Highway 26 interchange. The other trail will be along West Union Road from Northwest Glencoe Road to the Sunset Ridge developments.
"With the new homes and a future elementary school, the pathway is sorely needed," Lenahan said.
North Plains' new elementary school is expected to be completed in time for the 2021-22 school year.
Following the city's adoption of a new parks master plan in December 2018, the North Plains Parks Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at supporting the city's parks, was formed last year. In 2019, the city purchased land at 31229 N.W. Highland Court, where a new veterans memorial park will be located.
Lenahan said as the city works to plan for its growth, public involvement is essential. She said that's why the city has been developing a new website and other ways to better communicate with the public. North Plains is aware there is "untapped business potential," as she put it, on which the city can capitalize going forward.
Lenahan said the city is currently working with economic development staff from Washington County and investors to recruit commercial investment in the city's downtown.
"As you can tell, I'm a little bullish on the future of North Plains," Lenahan said. "I hope, after tonight, you share some of my enthusiasm. I feel blessed to be in this role."
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