Mayor now backs enlarging growth boundary for industry
Just weeks before Metro plans to add thousands of acres to the area's urban growth boundary, Mayor Vera Katz has relented in her opposition to suburban land expansion.
In her second annual economic development speech and in a later interview, Katz said she supports adding 200 acres of industrial land in Washington County for the high-tech industry.
The site, located at Northwest Shute Road and Evergreen Parkway, would be redeveloped into an industrial park. The mayor said she also supports some boundary expansion in Gresham, as long as there are new regionwide standards preventing industrial land from being converted to other uses.
'There's a huge amount of acres that we need,' said Katz, a member of Metro's Technical Advisory Committee. 'If you need industrial land, you have to agree to the restrictions.'
The regionwide restrictions would include: the banning of big-box retail and large-scale shopping center development, limits on retail and services-commercial office use, and limits on subdividing large lots.
The one exception would allow companies to build their headquarters on an industrially zoned site. It would apply to existing industrially zoned land or to acres being added to the boundary, the invisible line protecting farmland from uncontrolled development. It stretches from Portland to Forest Grove to Gresham, and south to Wilsonville.
Metro ended a series of public hearings on the urban growth boundary Tuesday at Portland City Hall. Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton will make a final recommendation next Tuesday to the Metro Council regarding expansion of the boundary for residential land that may include the Stafford Basin near Wilsonville.
Metro councilors, who are required by law to review land needs every five years, will vote on the proposed expansion in December.
'It didn't take convincing for the mayor of Portland, (Planning Director) Gil Kelley and PDC,' said Dave Lawrence, Hillsboro's economic development director. 'They understand that we don't have any lots, which is validated by Metro's own study, that there are no ready-to-go, 100-acre lots in the region. Her interest is on the regional economy.'
Companies typically do not want to build manufacturing facilities on lots of 50 acres or less. By restricting the use of industrial lands, Katz said regional leaders will be forced to look to their town centers to develop more office space instead of converting industrial land to that use.
'The issue is, if you need commercial space then you have to build in town centers and not rely on expansion of the boundary,' she said. 'The problem I have as we go into farmland is we are ignoring the industry of farming.'
Putting it to work
The first test case of the industrial land protections likely will be the North Macadam and Portland Meadows redevelopment projects, Burton said. The Portland Meadows racetrack Ñ expected to close in two years Ñ is located in an industrial area and shares an industrial area to the south.
Developer Tom Moyer and his partners are working on a proposal to construct office, retail and some industrial space at the 136-acre site. That proposal may include a rezoning request.
North Macadam is an 130-acre industrial area being developed by Homer Williams into condominiums, apartments, retail stores and offices, including Oregon Health & Science University's administration building.
'That's where the mayor needs to become a very serious and involved partner in the region,' Burton said. 'The city has to address its own house Ñ that's Macadam and Delta Park (Portland Meadows). It's a big test.'
Katz agreed that any loss of industrial space at the Portland Meadows site 'is a zoning issue for us. It depends on where it is located, how much land is involved. Once I see all the options available, I will take a stand.'
The Hayden Meadows strip mall nearby, developed by Moyer and the same ownership group, is zoned for commercial and mixed-use development.
Tallying it up
City planners are studying the city's inventory of industrial land Ñ protected as sanctuaries Ñ and looking at abandoned contaminated, industrial sites, known as brownfields, to see what kind of conversion can be done for manufacturing, Katz said.
Two weeks ago Burton proposed adding 555 acres for industrial use Ñ including the 200-acre Hillsboro site Ñ to the 19,011 acres he already has sought to include within the urban growth boundary. The majority of land would be located in Damascus.
Even with the expanded acreage, it's not enough, say community and real estate leaders. The Commercial Real Estate Economic Coalition argues that Burton's recommendation satisfies 'less than 40 percent of the identified needs for industrial land over the next 20 years.' Burton estimated 14,200 acres are needed to accommodate job and economic growth during the next two decades.
Because there will be limits on what developers can do with industrial land, the hope is they will build more offices in town centers instead, said Al Burns, senior city planner with Portland Bureau of Planning.
'The issue is, if you need commercial space then you have to build in town centers and not rely on expansion of the boundary,' Katz said.
The mayor said she prefers additional restrictions on industrial use, including office size.
More hurdles to cross
Katz remains opposed to a rule approved by the state Land Conservation and Development Commission last week to allow Metro to consider so-called subregions the next time it expands the boundary.
'No good can come of the proposed subregional rule,' Katz said at an LCDC hearing on Oct. 24, because it would expand into protected farmland.
Because developers scramble to buy land included in the boundary expansion, an LCDC staff report told Metro that meeting subregion needs 'can greatly influence the efficiency of transportation and public services, housing prices, economic development and the region's agricultural economy.'
The first consideration of subregional needs could occur as early as next year, Burton said. The most likely communities to be designated 'subregions' are Oregon City and north and south Washington County.
'There's no way they could use the subregional process now,' said Bob Rindy, a policy coordinator for the Department of Land Conservation and Development. 'It's going to take them some time to set up the subregions. This may make a difference where those acres are.'