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New land about to feed hungry cities


Forest Grove, Cornelius boundaries will expand after years of waiting

Forest Grove’s loss of more than 250 acres of prime industrial land north of the city will be offset by the imminent addition of an adjacent, slightly smaller area that might be used for both residential and industrial development.

This land-use change is one of several in both Forest Grove and Cornelius that will happen as soon as Gov. John Kitzhaber signs House Bill 4078, which in just a few short weeks resolved a number of longstanding Washington County land-use battles.

In Forest Grove, the bill targeted a 500-acre parcel that had been designated as “urban reserve” land, meaning it would someday be brought inside the city limits and developed.

City officials did some concept planning for that area back in 2010, when they hoped (in vain, ultimately) that Metro, the regional government which oversees Portland-area land use, would bring it inside the urban growth boundary. They envisioned industrial development in the north half and residential development in the south half.

But now, “we’re going to have to re-examine all that,” said Mayor Pete Truax.

That’s because a little more than half the total acreage, including 100 acres of prime industrial land bordered by Thatcher Road on the west and Purdin Road on the north, is being designated as rural reserve, meaning future development is no longer possible.

“I think the fact we actually extended the urban growth boundary in Forest Grove for the first time in some 30 years — that makes losing that acreage very palatable,” said Mayor Pete Truax.

The boundary-expansion process is often protracted and uncertain and could have dragged on another five years or more before the original 500 acres — only 326 of which are developable — finally came inside city limits, Truax said.

“Now we got it,” he said.

The acreage remaining for development might be able to hold both residential and industrial projects, said Dan Riordan, senior planner for Forest Grove. But city officials would first need to talk with property owners and figure out a good buffer zone between the two types of development, he said.

“Everything is open to discussion,” he said.

Another 37 acres south of town — part of a parcel owned by Hally Haworth — will also be brought inside the city boundary. That land is zoned for industrial use and had previously been an urban reserve with no timeline for inclusion.

Now, Truax said, “If a business needs 30 acres, we got it.”

In Cornelius, about 350 new acres of land will be brought inside the urban growth boundary. But the acreage will be almost all residential, which brings in relatively low tax revenue compared to the much more valuable commercial/industrial property.

The city’s imbalance between residential and commercial/industrial property is one of the largest — if not the largest — in the metro area, which is one reason Cornelius struggles to provide basic services.

Still, “beggars can’t be choosers,” said Cornelius City Manager Rob Drake. “We’re happy to get the land.”

At one point, city officials hoped to bring about 200 acres of farmland just north of Council Creek into the urban growth boundary so it could be zoned industrial. After fierce legal wrangling between supporters and opponents of the move, Metro labeled the property “undesignated,” putting off an urban or rural label until sometime in the future.

But the Grand Bargain now designates that area as “rural reserve,” removing it from any possible inclusion in the city’s boundaries.

In return, the city picks up 350 acres on its east side, including some Tualatin Valley Highway frontage.

The 137 acres north of the TV Highway are mostly filled with homes. Drake said those property owners will have the option of staying in the county — at least until their septic tanks fail, at which point they will have to connect to the city’s sewer system.

The 211 acres south of the TV Highway include 40 acres owned by the Hillsboro School District, which considers it a possible site for a future high school, Drake said. The remaining 170 acres are mostly undeveloped farmland.

The city unsuccessfully tried to get Metro to bring both those parcels inside the urban growth boundary during its last round of expansions in 2010, Drake said.

The additional acres are arriving at a good time, he said, since Metro recently awarded the city a grant to master-plan that area.

Developers frequently look for residential property in Cornelius, where land is more affordable than in Beaverton or Hillsboro, Drake said.

“It certainly has opened a very big gate for us.”