North Plains mayor's State of the City address looks to city's quickly growing future.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: GEOFF PURSINGER - North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan addresses a packed crowd at the Jessie Mays Community Hall Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 9.What's going on in North Plains? Teri Lenahan gets that question a lot.

The answer, Lenahan says, is growth.

As mayor, Lenahan has seen an explosion of new development in the small town north of Hillsboro.

Since 2013, the city has issued more than 400 new building permits, with hundreds more expected over the next few years. Since 2015, North Plains has seen a 48 percent increase in its population, according to Portland State University demographers.

The city is expected to double in size over the next five years as high housing costs in the Portland-area push more and more people into Western Washington County.

"Trust me when I say, we feel it out here in North Plains," Lenahan said.

On Tuesday, Jan. 9, Lenahan addressed the issue of growth in front of a crowd of curious residents at the city's first ever State of the City address, a progress report on what the city government has been up to during the past year and what it plans to accomplish in 2018. Lenahan, who took over as mayor of North Plains last year, said she plans to make annual reports, similar to other Washington County cities, including Hillsboro and Beaverton.

Growth is everywhere you look in North Plains, Lenahan said. The Chamber of Commerce has more than doubled its membership since 2014, the North Plains Public Library has seen a major increase in the number of check-outs it sees each month and the city recently hired an additional police officer, allowing the agency to have a police presence in town seven days a week — a first for the small law enforcement agency.

"The growth in North Plains is real," Lenahan said. "It's right here in front of us."

Growth in North Plains slowed over the last decade thanks to the Great Recession, but has started to pick back up in the last few years.

In the past year, construction of 104 new homes on the city's east side wrapped up, and plans are in the works to build another 700 homes in the east and north of town next year.

That growth has been controversial, Lenahan said, with many longtime residents coming out against the plans.

But North Plains is still committed to keeping its small-town charm, Lenahan said. The city hand-delivers a welcome packet to every new resident who moves to town. Lenahan said it's not uncommon to see neighbors sitting on their front porches watching the sun set on nice evenings.

"We want to keep our small-town independence," she said. "But we're growing, so how do we do that?"

The answer may be tough for longtime residents to hear, but Lenahan said the city will need to embrace the changes happening around them.

"We need to look outside our comfort zone to the possibility of change and ask ourselves, 'How can we provide that small-town charm and comfortably grow in the future?'" she said.

Lenahan said that while change is inevitable, the city is working to control how that growth occurs, including plans for a possible expansion of the urban growth boundary in the years to come. The city is also reviewing all of its strategic plans to prepare itself for new resident.

"We have a vision and we want to control our destiny and our future," she said. "... We want to be a destination spot for people to enjoy our rural community charm."

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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