Accord shifts 160 acres to Washington County

Approximately 100 Multnomah County residents will soon become Washington County residents due to an agreement that will redraw a portion of the border separating the two counties in the Bonny Slope area.

On Aug. 29, Multnomah County and Washington County officials agreed to resolve an 11-year-old controversy about the so-called “Area 93” — which encompasses about 160 acres along the western slopes of the Tualatin Mountains, commonly known as the West Hills.

The area is not heavily populated.

“There are around 70 parcels, many of which are vacant, and the existing development in the area is very low density; formerly rural,” said Stephen Roberts, communications coordinator for the Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation. “I’d guesstimate the population is probably in the 100 to 150 range right now.”

Area 93 is about 2.5 miles north of the U.S. Highway 26-Oregon 217 interchange. It is isolated from other urbanized areas in Multnomah County by a rural reserve area approximately one-half mile in width, yet it is contiguous to urbanized Washington County on two sides.

Officials considered moving the boundary because essential public services — water, sewer, parks, roads and police protection — could not effectively be provided to the Bonny Slope community by the city of Portland or Multnomah County. However, these services are available in Washington County through annexation to special districts already serving other urban unincorporated residents.

Both the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and Washington County Board of Commissioners approved the package last week.

“The Area 93 decision was in everyone’s best interest,” said Metro President Tom Hughes. “A great deal of credit goes to the leadership of Multnomah and Washington counties. At a time when we are used to decisions getting mired in the political swamp, it’s nice to see what level-headed people can do working together.”

Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck, who was instrumental in moving the proposal forward, praised the accord.

“I’m happy that it has gone so smoothly,” Duyck said. “It didn’t matter to me that the county grew by 160 acres. There was no gain for either county in this transfer, other than to solve a regional problem. Actually, by adding another 160 acres of urban unincorporated land, it adds to our planning workload over the next couple years. But by keeping development within our regional urban growth boundary, we help reduce growth pressure on farm and forest land elsewhere.”

The Multnomah-Washington county boundary was established in 1854. At that time, the Oregon territorial government carved Multnomah County out of what were then Washington and Clackamas counties. Given that the boundaries had been essentially unchanged for 160 years, Duyck was concerned the idea of moving the border could spark discord.

“When I originally considered this land transfer, I feared it would be controversial and lead to conflict,” explained Duyck. “However, Multnomah County, Metro and the Legislature were extremely cooperative in resolving this longstanding problem. It gave me the assurance early on that this could work, and that we could fix the problems experienced by residents of the area.”

The boundary change will officially take effect Jan. 1, 2014. Once that happens, property taxes for Area 93 taxpayers will increase because they will be getting additional public services.

Duyck said he believed that was fair.

“Existing Washington County residents should not have to pay for public improvements needed in Area 93 — those who benefit should pay for them,” said Duyck.

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