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No man's land no longer

Tualatin, Wilsonville working to plan Basalt Creek area


by: SUBMITTED IMAGE - The cities of Wilsonville and Tualatin are working on a concept plan that will plan for and divide up both the Basalt Creek and West Railroad areas.Tualatin and Wilsonville are finally tackling how to best divide up the no man’s land that lies between the two cities.

In unincorporated Washington County is 840 acres, which was included in the urban growth boundary by Metro in 2004. Since that time, both Tualatin and Wilsonville have been eyeing two chunks of land and talking, but neither has moved forward with possible infrastructure and development.

That ended last week, when both city councils, staff members and representatives from Metro and the county convened Oct. 29 at Wilsonville City Hall to kick off a concept planning project. Also in attendance were property owners and interested developers.

The two areas are Basalt Creek, at 599 acres, which sits just south of Tualatin, hugs the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and ends at Day Road, and the West Railroad area, at 241 acres, which is west of the correctional facility and Grahams Ferry Road. Currently, the area is comprised of large-lot residential properties, nurseries and farm land.

Also in the vicinity are Tualatin’s Southwest Tualatin Concept Planning Area, designated for light industrial and some commercial, and Wilsonville’s Coffee Creek Planning Area, which is tagged for 1,500 industrial jobs.

Instead of land grabbing and squabbling, both cities have opted to combine their resources and work together to plan the area. The cities signed a memorandum of understanding in 2010 outlining as much.

In 2011, Tualatin and Wilsonville signed an intergovernmental agreement with Washington County, Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation that outlines the roles and responsibilities for Basalt Creek concept planning. The first step of this process was to complete a transportation plan, which has since been completed and was accepted this summer.

The cities have now hired a consultant to lead the concept planning work. The idea of a concept plan is to create a vision for the area that will guide future land use and transportation. It will also outline a strategy for installing services such as water, sewer and storm sewer systems. Then the cities will decide how to divvy up the property.

Wilsonville officials have said in the past that the use of their portion of land, whatever it may be, will be primarily for employment. While Tualatin, which has little land left for housing, wants to focus on residential development.

“Both cities see the area contributing to a major regional economic work shed anchored by Coffee Creek in Wilsonville and Southwest Concept Plan in Tualatin,” states an Oct. 29 memo from Wilsonville staff.

However, before the land can be incorporated as part of either city, Metro mandates that both need to adopt a concept plan. Next, Washington County requires each city to amend its urban planning agreement. Finally, the properties can be annexed — all of which could take some time. The project planning alone is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete.

"The next 18 to 24 months will involve a lot of government work and planning,” Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said.

Tualatin received a $350,000 grant from Metro’s construction excise tax grant program to perform the concept planning. That funding means Tualatin must be the agency to approve the consultant contract and manage it. However, the Wilsonville City Council will be consulted at key milestones throughout the project and can make decisions on any aspect that would pertain to the Wilsonville planning area.

At the joint meeting, the councilors were asked to identify issues and challenges during concept planning, what guiding principles for planning should be, what are the big issues facing Basalt Creek and what a successful project would look like.

"This is an enormous opportunity — one of the largest opportunities available. We need to make the most of that,” said Wilsonville City Councilor Richard Goddard.

To keep the game fair, both cities seek equal representation on all committees, task forces and in planning. Each city has also assigned staff members to the project team.

The planning process will include many decisions, some joint and some individual. Key joint decisions will be setting the boundaries, creating a service provision and providing governance. Some individual decisions would be land use and the adoption and implementation of the plan.

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden said, “Whatever is promoted or envisioned or advanced by one city … needs to be in mind of the other city.”

Members of both councils agreed the plan should be “jurisdictionally blind” to ensure fairness to both cities.

“I think the last thing we need to think about right now is where the line is going to be,” Tualatin Councilor Joelle Davis said.

“Figuring out how to be true to each city’s vision will be an important component for us,” Knapp said.

Other councilors stressed the need to consider ways to complement existing plans, preserve topography, consider transportation and include residents and other stakeholders in the process.

Some of the large issues identified at the joint work session included environment, traffic, the vast number of parcels, compatibility, funding, overlays with school districts, transit, buffers and development plans.

As part of the beginning stages of planning, a topography survey will be done so the cities will know what exactly they are dealing with, including steep inclines and wetlands.

“Right now, I think there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of hazy vision,” Knapp said.

The next step in the planning process is the formation of a subcommittee to help the project team shape decision-making guidelines. Councilors Nancy Grimes (Tualatin), Davis, Susie Stevens (Wilsonville) and Goddard offered to serve on the subcommittee.

Then, a steering committee of about 20 people, consisting of councilors as well as government representatives, businesses, residents and stakeholders, will be formed to start the planning process.

“I’ve actually been enlightened and buoyed by the interactions of the councils,” Ogden said of the joint meeting.

For more information about the Basalt Creek and West Railroad planning process, visit basaltcreek.com.

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