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Young families are newest residents of Rivergrove

After a lull in housing development, Lake Oswego is experiencing a quiet rebound in the River Grove Elementary School area. Houses in the area, which include parts of the city of Lake Oswego, unincorporated Clackamas County and the entire city of Rivergrove (which is spelled differently than the school), are springing up. Many of them are priced between $550,000 and $700,000, making them more accessible for families with young children than many in other parts of the school district.

The city of Rivergrove has been intentional about attracting the development, Mayor Heather Kibbey said, but that doesn't mean she hasn't been surprised about the sudden revival.

'There is no way this could have been predicted one or two years ago,' Kibbey said. 'I have had a real estate license for many years, and I chaired the Rivergrove Planning Commission for five years during much of this development. And it came as a surprise even to me!'

The boost in population within the River Grove Elementary School area is worth noting as the Lake Oswego School District works on plans to redistribute students in a six-elementary school configuration instead of one with nine schools. River Grove school boundaries include Rivergrove, all of the Rosewood neighborhood and portions of Lake Forest to the north and Bryant to the east. With Bryant Elementary School slated to close in the fall, River Grove will have to take in even more students.

Additionally, in Lake Oswego, the Rosewood and Lake Forest neighborhoods are located largely in unincorporated Clackamas County. Of the 2,102 residents in Rosewood, only 192 are city residents. In contrast, about half of Lake Forest's 1,375 residents live within city boundaries.

In 1971, Rivergrove, which lies along the Tualatin River south of the Rosewood neighborhood, incorporated as a city with only a handful of citizens. Today the population is around 400, Kibbey said.

Rosewood and Lake Forest, along with Rivergrove, are within Lake Oswego's urban services boundary; the city is required by Clackamas County to plan for utilities for homes that lie within the boundary. The city council last looked at the issue in December 2010. The council at the time was concerned that, because some of the unincorporated areas have failing septic systems, the city might eventually be responsible for services.

This is especially a problem in Rosewood, where many homes were built in the 1970s with septic sewer systems. As some of those systems fail, homeowners individually request annexation into the city of Lake Oswego and access to its sewer system, creating an uneven city boundary. With sewer lines being only gradually plumbed, development of new homes isn't easy in the Rosewood area, said Denny Egner, long-range planning manager for the city of Lake Oswego.

While the neighborhood might like to have sewer service, the main barrier to extending the line is high cost, Egner said. In a study done in December 2010, the city estimated that property owners would need to pay for service laterals to their houses - a cost between $4,000 and $25,000. Fully providing sewer service to the neighborhood would cost $8.5 million.

Today, it is typical for a developer to pay for the sewer extension if there are enough homes being built to cover the cost. But in Rosewood, there is not a lot of opportunity for infill. Most of the lots aren't big enough to divide into smaller lots, and there aren't a lot of open lots available, Egner said.

'If someone were building a new house, in most cases, they'll be close enough to a sewer line that they'd annex and connect,' he said.

In contrast, in the city of Rivergrove, larger parcels of land have sat empty for years, and the city took the initiative to have a sewer line added to a portion of the city in the early 2000s. The cities of Rivergrove and Lake Oswego have an intergovernmental agreement in which Lake Oswego provides sewer services.

Although this opened up large parcels of land for development, some of the tracts sat empty in 'development difficulties and foreclosures,' Kibbey said.

Two developments were able to open in the early to mid-2000s with homes priced in the $900,000 to $1.5 million range, but the prices were out of reach for many families. Only 42 percent of those homes were sold to families, Kibbey said. Ultimately, the recession that began in 2008 caused a backlog of undeveloped lots.

A few years ago, three new subdivisions - RiversEdge Woods, RiversEdge View and Rivergrove Woods - were platted with 52 lots along Childs Road. The largest one - Rivergrove Woods - is not yet completed, but 75 percent of the homes that have sold are occupied by families with children.

From the 20 most recent comparable new home sales in Rivergrove, sold within the previous 18 months, the city of Rivergrove counted 31 elementary-age or younger children, which is 1.55 children per household. Based on that finding, the city estimates 51 children from the Rivergrove Woods development and six children from Rivergrove Woods will move into the school district by 2014. Kibbey estimates that seven of those children will be too young to attend school.

Much of Rivergrove's growth occurred after the 2010 U.S. Census, making it impossible for the Lake Oswego School District to have known before it decided to close three elementary schools.

Though most of the development is happening within the Rivergrove city boundary, there is a small amount of development in other parts of the River Grove Elementary area that is within the city of Lake Oswego's boundaries. There is one 11-lot single-family-home development on Pilkington Road near the Korean Methodist Church that was recently constructed.

There are also two developments - one eight-unit townhome complex in Lake Forest along Frost Street and one 24-lot single-family-home development in Bryant along Lakeview Boulevard - that are within the elementary school's current boundary.

Otherwise, within Rosewood, there are just a handful of a lot partitions that also have potential for future infill. There is a little more potential in Lake Forest, Egner said.

Regional-planning government Metro is in the process of projecting population for its transportation planning.

'In general they show about an increase of less than 200 housing units ... over the next 40 years,' Egner said.

The projection, which is not contiguous with city neighborhoods, includes Rosewood and Rivergrove, as well as a small portion of the Bryant neighborhood and the area just north of Rosewood up to Boones Ferry Road.

The projection is still in draft form and was last updated in January. It is not expected to be finalized until the fall.

'Those forecast numbers are rough estimates at this point. Any time you're looking out that far, it's a rough estimate,' Egner said. 'They're assuming that the vacant parcels are developed.'



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