Duyck: 'We need to work together'
Andy Duyck offered some advice for his successor while he reviewed some of the achievements and unfinished business of Washington County in his years as board chairman.
Duyck spoke Thursday, March 22, at a breakfast of the Westside Economic Alliance in the Tiger Woods Center at Nike world headquarters in Beaverton.
Four candidates are in the May 15 primary to succeed Duyck, who is ending 24 years on the county board, the past eight of them as its chairman elected countywide. He leaves office Jan. 2.
Duyck acknowledged that business and civic leaders come to issues with strong views, but unlike political infighting elsewhere, Washington County has managed to resolve them civilly.
"If there is one message I can leave for my successor — and I know several of them are here in the room — it is that we need to be respectful with each other and we need to work together to make this county a better place," Duyck said. "I think it shows when you compare Washington County to others."
When he closed — after five minutes of tributes via video — his audience gave him a prolonged standing ovation.
Duyck's final state of the county talk dispensed with a written text and formal speech.
Instead, he responded to questions about five key topics from Eric Schmidt, formerly of Portland television station KOIN and the Association of Oregon Counties. The topics were population growth, housing, transportation, water supply and the proposed events center at the fairgrounds in Hillsboro.
Each exchange was preceded by five-minute video clips with comments drawn from the four other commissioners, mayors, business and civic leaders, and Metro President Tom Hughes and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici.
Duyck did not get an advance preview of many of the videos.
Growth and housing
When Duyck joined the board in 1995, Washington County's population approached 400,000. As he leaves office, the total is pushing 600,000, up by about 60,000 since 2011.
At the county's current rate of growth, Duyck said, the South Hillsboro area designed for 20,000 will fill within two years — and small communities such as North Plains also are growing.
"People are going to go where there is housing available," he said.
"The downside is that if you do not have adequate housing for everybody, it drives prices and rents up. So all of these issues are linked together."
On housing, the county has teamed up with nonprofit agencies — often by donating surplus land or raising money for systems development charges — to build housing for low-income households. Duyck said about 450 such units were completed in the past year, and another 500 in progress.
"There is always going to be a need for public and nonprofit housing," Duyck said. "We can build housing for those in need who could not get housing any other way."
But according to a 2016 study commissioned by the Housing Authority of Washington County — a separate agency governed by the county commissioners — and conducted by Portland State University, the county is short of "affordable" units by 14,000, costing no more than 30 percent of household income. Some estimates peg the figure as high as 23,000.
Duyck said other steps are under consideration to provide incentives to the private sector, such as rezoning in commercial corridors to allow housing and other uses, smaller homes and less rigid requirements for parking and other features.
"Until we have enough houses that exceed the growth projections, we're not going to see downward pressure" on prices, Duyck said.
Transportation and water
In addition to more housing at all price ranges, Duyck said, the county's future growth hinges on adequate transportation and water supplies.
The county has committed about $900 million in the past three decades, from property taxes that voters approved before 1996, to 150 projects to improve major streets. Along with Hillsboro and Intel, it has contributed to access improvements on Cornelius Pass Road for Intel's Ronler Acres campus.
But Duyck said transportation encompasses mass transit, such as the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line between downtown Portland and Bridgeport Village in Tualatin, and bicycle and pedestrian routes.
"We have not written off the automobile in any sense, but we have de-emphasized it in favor of what you are hearing," he said.
While several of its cities are pursuing a water tie-in with the Willamette River, Washington County also is involved in federal studies of alternatives to Scoggins Dam, which is at high risk of failure if there is a catastrophic earthquake off the Oregon coast.
The earthfill dam was built in 1975, and Henry Hagg Lake behind it is a primary source of water for the cities. Alternatives boil down to strengthening the existing dam or building a new one downstream at the site of the Stimson Lumber Co. mill. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the dam, is empowered under 2015 congressional legislation to consider an increase in storage capacity at the same time as a seismic upgrade.
Duyck said the process got started under his predecessor as chairman, Tom Brian, and will continue until Congress decides what to do about a dam ranked atop the unsafe list.
"We will still need additional capacity in Hagg Lake for streamflows and maintaining 17,000 acres of farmland that is irrigated by the water in Hagg Lake," he said.
"We have to be ready for the opportunities when they present themselves."
The long-awaited community events center at the Washington County Fairgrounds is in the development stage.
"I've been promised I will get a shovel in the ground this year before I leave office," Duyck said, although the building is scheduled for completion in 2020.
The project took on more urgency recently when the county commissioners, on advice of engineers, approved demolition of some buildings at the fairgrounds.
The county will draw much of the estimated $37 million cost from its Gain Share fund, which consist of state payments that offset property tax losses from breaks granted for large-scale investment topping $100 million. Hillsboro has agreed to pay up to $8 million from a new lodging tax, and the Washington County Visitors Association, $1 million.
Duyck said the county lacks a public space large enough to hold an event such as the state of the county, let alone smaller conventions and exhibitions that are too large for Portland.
"Not to mention that we will have a new place where the Duyck family can finally have space for a reunion," moderator Schmidt said as the audience laughed.
Duyck and his wife, Patty, have seven children. Two were born after he was first elected to the board in 1994.
Washington County video presentation that was part of Board Chairman Andy Duyck's state of the county remarks: