More than 40 acres along the west side of 345th Avenue will be brought into city limits.

COURTESY MAP: CITY OF CORNELIUS - A draft planning map from 2015 shows the Hillsboro School District property to the northeast. At the time, the school district land was outside city limits, but the Cornelius City Council agreed Monday to bring it into the city in anticipation of possible future school development.A 42.75-acre parcel of land where the Hillsboro School District is eyeing a possible future school campus will become part of the city of Cornelius, following a Cornelius City Council vote to approve the land's annexation Monday, May 7.

In partnership with the school district, the city applied to have the undeveloped property on the west side of Southwest 345th Avenue brought into city limits, according to Ryan Wells, Cornelius' community development director — making it eligible to be connected to municipal sewer and other city services. There are no current plans for the land, but a long-range planning document produced by the school district in 2016 lists the property at 305 S.W. 345th Ave. as one of two in the district's land inventory that could support a high school.

Cornelius is the second-largest city in the state without its own high school, behind only Happy Valley. The city is split between the Forest Grove and Hillsboro school districts, with elementary schools belonging to each district already located within city limits: Cornelius and Echo Shaw elementary schools in the Forest Grove School District, and Free Orchards Elementary School in the Hillsboro School District.

It remains to be determined how the school district will seek to develop the 345th Avenue property. However, Wells serves on the district's long-range planning committee, and he said the district is leaning against building a high school in Cornelius.

"I know that within the next decade, their plans are to build a school on this property. It likely will be an elementary and/or a middle school," Wells said. "Through their most recent passed bond, they feel that the additions at Hilhi, Glencoe and Liberty (high schools) will be able to absorb additional demand from the growth in the area, and so they feel that the property would probably best be suited for elementary or middle school children."

To be clear, though, he added, "This annexation does not in any way obligate the school district to build a school at this property."

No representative from the Hillsboro School District came to speak during the public hearing.

According to meeting materials from last month's planning commission hearing, school district officials have suggested they will seek approval from voters to construct a school at 305 S.W. 345th Ave. with bond dollars after the current bond expires in 2022.

Whatever grade levels it serves, a second Hillsboro school in Cornelius may be needed to deal with an expected population influx at the east end of town. Almost 1,200 new housing units have been approved for development throughout the city, according to Wells. More than 900 of those are in the Laurel Woods mega-development in the southeastern corner of Cornelius, expected to be built out over the next few years.

Mayor Jef Dalin, who was absent from Monday's council meeting, declared in his "State of the City" address in February that Cornelius — already boasting a population of close to 12,000 — could grow by as much as one-third in the near future.

The parcel is located due south of the Portland & Western Railroad line through Cornelius, just over a mile west of Hillsboro city limits. It's already adjacent to Cornelius, lying just outside its city limits, so no "cherry-stem" — a mapping term used to describe the use of a right-of-way to connect non-contiguous parts of a jurisdiction or district — will be needed to join it to the rest of the city.

About 5.91 acres of the land being annexed into the city is being dedicated to the city for use as public right-of-way. Wells noted that among other street projects, the city plans to extend South 29th Avenue south to the Laurel Woods development.

"As we were planning out the process, we determined that it would be mutually beneficial to invite the school district to include their school district property in this effort so that when it comes time for the school district to develop that property in the future, it would already be in the city limits and they wouldn't have to go through the annexation process," Wells explained.

The Hillsboro School District land will be zoned as residential. While this raised alarm bells for at least a couple of citizens when the matter was before the city's planning commission last month, a staff report presented to the council noted, Cornelius' zoning ordinances permit the construction of schools in residential zones — in fact, Echo Shaw and Free Orchards, as well as the private Swallowtail Waldorf School, are situated in residential zones.

No public testimony was offered during the hearing. After it was closed, the City Council voted 4-0 to approve the annexation and zoning, which will take effect next month.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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