The City of Wilsonville is worried about contractors establishments in Basalt Creek and Coffee Creek
According to his telling during the Wilsonville City Council work session Monday, Oct. 21, Mayor Tim Knapp recently had coffee with Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington expressing his concern about the possibility of contractors' establishments — ancillary facilities for storage or small shops — burgeoning in Wilsonville's nascent Coffee Creek and Basalt Creek industrial areas.
Harrington wasn't receptive to his concerns, Knapp recalled.
"I raised this question and her answer was short but succinct: "So annex it." She did not seem to have a lot of in-depth policy discussion interest to me at that point," Knapp said.
Basalt Creek and Coffee Creek are located in unincorporated Washington County under FD-20 zoning, a designation used for areas just added to the urban growth boundary that haven't been annexed and is intended to protect these lands for future development.
Nevertheless, FD-20 zoning allows contractors' establishments. Though they are eventually planned to be annexed into Wilsonville, the Basalt Creek and Coffee Creek areas currently are in the county and the City doesn't have jurisdiction over them yet.
Knapp and other Wilsonville representatives are worried about contractors' establishments because they don't fit the City's goal of creating valuable industrial areas with advanced manufacturing and high-wage job opportunities.
The City brought the issue to the council's attention in part because it has seen five submitted development applications for contractors' establishments in Coffee Creek and Basalt Creek.
"Our goal needs to be not to have more of this stuff there ,so we have to develop policies that enable us to have some more control," Knapp said.
At the meeting, City associate planner Cindy Luxhoj identified some examples of contractors' establishments. They include space for subsidiaries of manufacturing companies or shops for specialized trades like landscaping or plumbing. City Planning Director Miranda Bateschell said such facilities often are land intensive and don't generate new jobs.
Bateschell said contractors' establishments are allowed in these areas likely because they are thought of as temporary uses.
"We're not necessarily seeing them as temporary uses. They seem to operate there for long periods of time," Bateschell said. "We want to make sure these areas we planned for develop into business district we're hoping for and investing in."
City Attorney Barbara Jacobson also said during the meeting that owners of such establishments sometimes demand
high asking prices for their property, particularly in areas that are projected to increase in value.
Some options the City is considering for ameliorating the problem include quickly annexing land in the industrial areas, working with Washington County to change zoning to outlaw contractors' establishments, purchasing important land, and lobbying for more stringent enforcement of the Washington County Wilsonville Urban Planning Agreement provision requiring contractors' establishments to provide enforceable plans for redevelopment.
The City is beginning research to determine the pros and cons of such options and others.
Knapp said that due to the lack of reception during his chat with Harrington, he reasoned it might make sense for Wilsonville to take matters into its own hands rather than try to collaborate.
However, he added: "We have been partners with the county in a lot of ways, and if they could come to understand that this is a critical piece of making Basalt Creek and Coffee Creek develop with a high value and this is a program that obviously benefits the county and the city, maybe they should do something different."
Harrington did not recall the specifics of her conversation with Knapp but said that Washington County creating unique requirements for particular cities is unrealistic and not within the normal work of the county.
"Whenever he (Knapp) has concerns about what can happen to an area of land, I always urge the cities to get those lands annexed into those cities," Harrington said. "The cities are the ones that go through and do the comprehensive land use and zoning per their vision."
Councilor Joann Linville said the clear path forward is annexation if the City and the county can't reach an agreement.
However, Bateschell said the City's policy historically has been to annex planned areas gradually.
"Sometimes property owners don't necessarily want to be annexed into a city, so historically the city has had it be something that is voluntary or we wait until someone is ready and wants to do that," she said.
Councilor Ben West suggested working with businesses to see if they can come to an agree-
ment that meets the needs of all sides.
"I want to find a way that's more collaborative. Maybe it's pie in the sky, but if we could get a number of them to be able to be like 'I'm buying into Basalt Creek. I'm buying into that vision, so let's work together to make that happen,'" West said. "And helping them transition might be better than 'We're annexing, tough luck.'
Bateschell said the City has set up a meeting with Washington County staff to discuss concerns. The City hopes to come to an agreement to resolve the issue by next year.
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