Jurisdiction shift from Multnomah County to spur residential growth

by: SUBMITTED MAP - Area 93 is now part of Washington County.Washington County residents who don’t think much of anything changed between the last day of 2013 and the first day of 2014 may want to recheck their county border. As of Jan. 1, it’s 160 acres larger than it was last year.

For the first time in 160 years, the border between Washington and Multnomah counties was adjusted, transferring a swath along the western slope of the Tualatin Mountains known as “Area 93” from Multnomah to Washington county’s jurisdiction.

Area 93 lies about 2.5 miles north of the interchange of highways 26 and 217. Contiguous to urbanized Washington County on two sides, the property is isolated from urbanized areas in Multnomah County by a rural reserve area approximately a half-mile wide.

The change results from a 2002 agreement among Metro regional government and other jurisdictions to add more than 20,000 acres to the urban growth boundary, in accordance with Oregon law, to support 20 years of anticipated population and job growth. Area 93 was one of several areas included in the expansion plan with the objective to provide land primarily for residential development.

The transfer concludes a complex process of multi-jurisdictional cooperation involving state, regional and county officials working together with local property owners and neighboring communities, said Phillip Bransford, communications officer for Washington County.

Dignitaries from both counties gathered on Monday morning near the intersection of Northwest Laidlaw and Thompson roads — the easternmost point of Area 93 — to commemorate the boundary change. A relocated green “Welcome to Washington County” highway sign reflects the boundary’s westward shift.

“This really is a good government story,” said Andy Duyck, chairman of the Washington County Board of Directors. “When you can take four governments and get them to work together to resolve a problem — with everybody on the same page and have very little fanfare — that is a great story.”

Duyck thanked several of the key players, including former Multnomah County Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Cogen, Metro President Tom Hughes and the Metro Council, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, the Portland City Council and the Washington County Board of Commissioners, singling out Commissioner Greg Malinowski.

“The key objective of this boundary change is to keep the process as revenue-neutral as possible,” Duyck noted. “It was not our intent to put the burden on Washington County taxpayers to resolve this problem. Those who benefit from putting this land in Washington County will also be the ones to pay for the cost of development.”

Multnomah County and the city of Portland engaged in a significant amount of work in trying to plan the area, but because of logistical challenges in bringing cost-effective public services including water, sewer, roads and parks to the area, officials weren’t able to go beyond the planning stages.

“You can see that the area is bordered on two sides by a very highly urbanized Washington County, so it only makes sense that the simplest (approach) would be to move it into Washington County and serve it from this side,” Duyck said, noting how the road system funnels drivers from that area south into Washington County. “Once it is under our jurisdiction, system development charges and other taxes can be imposed on the residents to maintain and improve the roads.”

Once land-use plans are adopted, the area’s 140 or so property owners will be required to annex into Washington County special districts as a condition of development and pay their share of property taxes. Environmental standards and rules from the state, Metro, Washington County and Clean Water Services will apply in order to protect stream corridors, water quality and wildlife habitat.

Bransford said the boundary transfer demonstrates how neighboring jurisdictions can collaborate to benefit the region while optimizing land use in a steadily growing area.

“What had been thought of as impossible is now possible,” he said. “With this, forest and farmland elsewhere in the

region is preserved, while decisions about where urban development occurs can be fulfilled.”

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