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City considers taking on debt to spur Pleasant Valley development

Much of 1,000-acre tract lacks wastewater connections


OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Bend-based Monte Vista Homes is just one of a number of developers active in the Pleasant Valley area of Gresham, where the city is considering whether to fund infrastructure development ahead of actual development. The Gresham City Council is deciding whether to pony up the money for wastewater infrastructure in Pleasant Valley with the hope of stimulating private development.

The question of "If we build it, will they come?" came to the council from Steve Fancher, Gresham's director of environmental services, during a policy development meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Intalling wastewater pipes to connect to the existing system would likely be too expensive for any one developer, city staff noted. However, if the city borrows money for the project, the opportunities for development in Pleasant Valley would be greatly expanded.

Once farmland and orchards, Pleasant Valley sits on the southwest edge of Gresham. It was brought into the urban growth boundary in 1998 and annexed to Gresham and Portland. The next nine years saw planning for houses, roads, community centers and businesses.

But the recession that hit in 2008 stopped development in its tracks until the past three years, when developers started carving a few new subdivisions out of the land.

Getting construction going in the neighborhood, which is roughly 1,000 acres, is part of the Gresham's 2016 work plan. The first step will be to acquire easements from property owners for public infrastructure.

There are three subdivisions under construction in Pleasant Valley, but room for many more. Gresham Senior Planner Jim Wheeler said he’s issued building permits for more than 250 detached homes in those subdivisions.

One of them is connected into the wastewater system, while the other two have temporary pumps to connect with the system.

Bend-based Monte Vista Homes is planning 32 single-family homes sized between 1,800 and 1,900 square feet on property at Southeast 190th Avenue and Powell Boulevard.

Slightly southeast and across from 190th Drive, Charlotte Pointe will break ground on building another 89 single-family homes called Brookside at Pleasant Valley. Next to it will go another development, Hayden Meadows.

The Pleasant Valley community has boundaries that cross Gresham and Portland as well as both Clackamas and Multnomah counties. The community is one of contrasts, with brand-spanking new homes bordering century-old barns busy with chickens, horses and goats.

“We’ve had a few pre-applications over the last couple of years, most of it with property owners that have developers that are interested, but nothing specific," Wheeler said. "With pre-application meetings you can’t quite tell if they are tire kicking or serious, and of course with any areas that are pretty much outside what (development) we already have, infrastructure has been an issue.”

City Councilor Lori Stegmann asked during Tuesday's meeting whether the city could look toward Pleasant Valley to do more for alleviating homelessness.

“We have to think differently about how we approach brick-and-mortar developments and what the social impact is going to be,” Stegmann said. “I want to make sure we’re looking at it from all perspectives.”

But Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said much of that development has been bookmarked in Pleasant Valley for single-family homes since before 2008, when developers all over the country halted projects because of the recession.

“You have developers ready to go,” Bemis said. “We wouldn’t be talking about it today if the financial collapse hadn’t happened. Make no mistake, that part of the city has been master-planned to death, so to speak. Everything is ready except this infrastructure piece.”

Other capital improvement projects the city is considering include updating water and wastewater pipes that are decades old, general street maintenance, continuing to build the Fairview-Gresham trail and building out Hogan Butte Nature Park and Gradin Sports Park.

The projects will go to the Planning Commission and Finance Committee for reviews, and the council will look at them again in May.