Metro growth requests pass first hurdle
The Metro Council will seriously consider expanding the urban growth boundary it administers by 2,200 acres to help accommodate 9,200 new homes.
All eight members of the council reacted positively to Chief Operating Officer Martha Bennett's recommendation to approve expansion requests from Beaverton, King City, Hillsboro and Wilsonville during a Tuesday afternoon work session. Even Councilor Bob Stacey, a former director of the 1000 Friends of Oregon land use watchdog group, said he was "very excited" for the first time to discuss expanding the UGB that determines where new development can occur.
Bennett's recommendation, which was released last week, included specific issues to be discussed with each city to ensure a mix of housing, including units affordable to households earning less than the area's median family income. Such discussions will occur under a new expansion review process adopted by the council to ensure the planned housing actually is built.
"I can't tell you how excited I am by the new process," said Metro President Tom Hughes, who speaiheaded its adoption after the council voted against expanding the UGB in 2015, the last time it reviewed. State land use planning laws require the boundary to always include a 20-year supply of buildable land.
Originally, the UGB could only be expanded onto land deemed unsuitable for farms and forests, regardless of whether any nearby cities were willing or able to fund the necessary infrastructure improvements. Now, Hughes and the other council members are talking about working with "partners" to help meet the region's housing needs. The potential expansion areas are on urban reserves previously designated by Metro for possible development over 50 years.
"No other region does urban growth boundaries better than we do," said Hughes, who was prevented from running for reelection is year under Metro's term limts and will be succeeded by Lynn Peterson, a transportation expert and former Clackamas County Chair who was elected president at the May 2018 primary election.
The largest request is from Beaverton, which wants to expand on to 1,232 acres in the Cooper Mountain urban reserve area for 3,760 homes. The next largest request is from King City, which wants to add 528 acres in the Beef Bend South area for 3,300 homes. After that, Wilsonville wants to expand on to 271 acres in the Advance Road (Frog Pond) area for 1,325 homes. And Hillsboro wants to expand on to 150 acres in the Witch Hazel South area for 850 homes.
The councilors were most comfortable with the requests from Beaverton, Hillsboro and Wilsonville, which have all helped produce successful developments in recent years. They were more cautious about King City, a smaller city which has never undertaken such a large project before. A recently discovered conservation easement across a portion of a proposed east-west connecting road further complicates the request. But Bennett and most councilors said they were willing to give King City the chance to succeed, in large part because the region needs to produce hundreds of thousands of new housing units of all kinds to accomodate the additional people expected to be living here in 20 years.
Public council hearings on the requests have been scheduled for Sept. 20 and 21. The council will then hold hearings on the ordinance to approve some or all of the requests on Dec. 6 and 13, with the vote happening at the second one.
The expansion requests are supported by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, PGE, Clackamas County, the Clackamas County Business Alliance, state Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Dist. 13), the Westside Economic Alliance, and the Community Housing Fund.
"As you are aware, the Portland metropolitan area is in the midst of a housing supply and affordability crisis. It is time to act," the Westside Economic Alliance wrote the council on Aug. 15.
Some residents in each of the city's oppose the requests, with most saying they prefer the way things area. The Sherwood City Council withdrew a fifth preliminary request in the face of community opposition.
A Metro staff report says the proposed developments could reduce owner-occupied home prices slightly in the Portland area. "If developed, the four proposed UGB expansions would result in modest reductions in housing prices for owner-occupied housing by providing additional housing supply," reads the draft 2018 Urban Growth Report released July 3.
Even if the council approves all the requests, the 9,200 new homes they might make possible are just a fraction of the 300,000 more homes of all kinds the Metro report says are required by 2038.