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Boundary shift sought for West Bonny Slope


by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - A sign denotes the current border between Washington County and Multnomah County at Area 93.What will it take for limited development occur in West Bonny Slope, a 160-acre parcel of in unincorporated Multnomah County near Cedar Mill?

A move into Washington County, apparently.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Northwest Portland Democrat whose district is in the area, will ask the Legislature to move the boundary between Washington and Multnomah counties to resolve a 10-year-old land-use dispute.

Metro expanded the region’s urban growth boundary to include the parcel, officially known as Area 93, in 2002. But no significant new development could occur there because Multnomah County does not provide urban services, such as water and sewer lines.

The situation has frustrated most of the nearly 70 property owners ever since. It’s not like they wanted to subdivide and retire, says Dave Hunnicutt, an attorney who represents them.

“The property is not right for dense or even medium development. At most, we’re talking about quarter-acre lots,” says Hunnicutt, director of Oregonians in Action, a property rights organization.

Washington County Chair Andy Duyck supports moving the line and bringing Area 93 into Washington County. The resulting development will never generate a significant amount of property tax revenue for the county. But Duyck says the situation has become a frustrating symbol of problems with Oregon’s land-use planning laws that can and should be resolved.

“People say there’s no sense expanding the urban growth boundary any more because we can’t develop the land that’s already in it. Well, maybe a more cooperative approach is what’s needed,” says Duyck.

A public meeting of Area 93 residents will be scheduled later this month to discuss the proposed boundary change and other potential development issues.

Providing needed services

After the urban growth boundary was expanded to include Area 93, Multnomah County contracted with the city of Portland to prepare a master plan for the property. Metro contributed more than $200,000 to the project. But Portland ultimately refused to provide the required urban services because it was outside the city limits.

Then last year, Multnomah County designated the land between Area 93 and Portland a rural reserve, making it all but impossible the city would ever provide the services.

After the property owners retained Oregonians In Action about two years ago, they initiated a series of meetings with regional officials to find a solution. The gatherings have grown to include representatives of Metro, Washington and Multnomah counties. All agree that allowing Washington County to provide the needed services is the best answer.

But that takes legislative action because Oregon’s county boundaries are set in state law. The last change took place in 2003, when the Legislature moved the shared boundary for Benton and Linn counties.

To help redrawn the Washington and Multnomah county line, property owners have agreed to pay for an estimated $5,000 survey of Area 93 that will be included in Greenlick’s bill. The Metro expansion was based on a map, not the kind of detailed survey needed for the boundary change.

According to Hunnicutt, the money spent for Portland to master plan Area 93 was probably wasted. It called for denser development than Washington County has indicated it will support.

West Bonny Slope is not the only — or even the largest — area brought into the urban growth boundary in 2002 that has yet to be developed. So was the property that became the city of Damascus in Clackamas County. It encompasses 16.4 square miles. Land-use planning issues have become so contentious there that a movement is under way to disincorporate Damascus.