Transportation, public safety, natural resource preservation key elements

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Steven Sparks, principal planner with the city of Beaverton, talks about the development of the South Cooper Mountain property, located southwest of downtown Beaverton.The idea of transforming the pastoral farmland around South Cooper Mountain into part of Beaverton’s expansive sea of neighborhoods, businesses and schools — and the traffic, congestion and disruption they’ll likely bring — is a tough pill for some residents to swallow.

Steven Sparks, principal planner with the city of Beaverton, finds a little information and engagement, however, go a long way toward easing fears and assuring neighbors their voices will be heard.

“I sat down at a visioning meeting with a couple from North Cooper Mountain who didn’t want anything to happen,” Sparks said. “They wanted to have it exactly as it is. Over the course of the day, they started to say, ‘Oh, I see,’ and became very constructive in their comments.

“It went from, ‘We don’t want anything to change’ to ‘If it changes, this is how we’d like it to happen.’”

That’s the kind of transformation Sparks hopes to see more of as planning moves forward for the 2,500-acre South Copper Mountain development area.

Residents will have an opportunity to learn and share their questions and concerns at an open house on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Scholls Heights Elementary School, 16400 S.W. Loon Drive.

The event will present planning scenarios considering a range of approaches to land use, open space, transportation and housing for South Cooper Mountain based on feedback from a public visioning workshop held last July. Reviewed by the project’s Technical and Citizen Advisory committees, the scenarios underwent technical and design evaluations for utilities, transportation, land use and natural TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Steven Sparks, principal planner with the city of Beaverton, points out details on a map of development and annexation plans involving three distinct parcels in the South Cooper Mountain area.

Town and country

Planners invite public feedback based on the three distinct parcels within the project area, as well as on aspects of transportation and natural resources. The key topics include:

South Cooper Mountain Annexation Area — Scenarios show how this 544-acre “subarea,” now officially part of Beaverton, could develop in the next 20 years. They focus on creating livable community with a variety of housing options, walkable neighborhoods, connected streets and trails, a mixed-use “Main Street,” open space, neighborhood parks and schools.

North Cooper Mountain — No changes are expected in this 510-acre section located north of the annexed area, without extension of a sewer system to replace septic tanks as they fail or to service new homes in the area.

Urban Reserve Area — Scenarios show concepts for how development and natural resource preservation could occur if the 1,200-acre area is brought into the urban growth boundary in the future.

Transportation — Potential transportation improvements would have an impact on local driving, walking, biking and transit options, while helping to reduce regional traffic congestion. This includes a realignment of Southwest 175th Avenue to replace an angular “kink” between Outlook Lane and Horse Tail Lane with a straight stretch, as well as widening roads to include turning lanes.

The two existing scenarios for the 20-year “near-term” plans would accommodate nearly 8,000 households for the entire 2,300-acre concept plan area, including around 3,500 units within the annexation area, noted Valerie Sutton, senior planner in the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, on Tuesday. Development of about 4,000 units within the urban reserve area would transpire in a “future” scenario designated as 30 to 50 years.

“Developing roughly 500 units within the North Cooper Mountain subarea is a mix of near-term and future (planning) depending on availability of infrastructure needed to serve new development,” Sutton said.

Plans emphasize interconnectedness between the developments and existing greenspaces, such as the Cooper Mountain Natural Area and the recently developed Paul and Verna Winkelman Park along 175th Avenue.

“Walking paths will connect to trails outside the area,” Sutton said. “There will be better walking opportunities to get to and from the neighborhood. You could walk on a sidewalk and walk (safely) to the nature park.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Part of the annexation and development plan includes traffic improvements in the South Cooper Mountain area.

Public engagement

Consultants with Angelo Planning Group presented two recently updated options for the planning area at Jan. 28 Beaverton Planning Commission and City Council meetings. In addition to transportation and safety issues, the presentation highlighted natural resources, land use, parks and schools. Commercial development would center on a “Main Street”-styled community hub.

“We’re focusing on where development should and shouldn’t be,” said Joe Dills, senior planner with the Angelo group. “Our highest priority is for preservation.”

Through public forums, workshops and neighborhood visits, Sparks, Sutton and the team of consultants and planners continue to engage with Cooper Mountain neighbors and factor in their concerns and interests as the planning process evolves.

“Everybody is a planner, really,” Sparks said. “People’s opinions do matter.”

Information and feedback from Saturday’s workshop will be incorporated into concept and community plan drafts,

including implementation and financing strategies, by late summer. A final plan will provide a framework for how the area would be developed throughout the next 20 to 50 years.

“The goal is to get community planning done this year, and get it moving toward (City) Council adoption — including planning and implementation tools — by the end of the year,” Sparks said. “I’d be surprised to see any kind of earth movement or sticks in the air before 2017, although we could do it by 2016.”

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