On Tuesday, the Metro council–which earlier in the year finalized the area’s selection of urban and rural reserves–had a work session to discuss future expansions to the Urban Growth Boundary. The councilors expressed a need for about 15,000 housing units to meet future housing needs in the region, and one parcel which was discussed in some detail is the 1,000 acre South Hillsboro parcel located directly south of TV Highway and Cornelius Pass Road.
On Tuesday, the Metro council–which earlier in the year finalized the area’s selection of urban and rural reserves–had a work session to discuss future expansions to the Urban Growth Boundary. The councilors expressed a need for about 15,000 housing units to meet future housing needs in the region, and one parcel which was discussed in some detail is the 1,000 acre South Hillsboro parcel located directly south of TV Highway and Cornelius Pass Road, and between SW 209th and 229th… here:
No votes were taken, no decisions were made–but a lot of questions came up in the discussion, and I have a few more here.
First, the location. It’s probably a reasonable choice, given that it’s a greenfield surrounded on 3 sides by existing industrial, commercial, residential, or recreational uses: Intel’s Aloha campus is to the northeast; there’s an existing retail complex to the northwest, and subdivisions to the west and north. To the southwest is a golf course. While the soil quality and topography is reportedly good for agriculture, it’s cut off from other agricultural uses by pre-existing development.
However, not all agreed on its use for residential purposes. Clackamas County commissioner Charlotte Lehan suggested it might be put to better use as an industrial parcel, in order to limit the need to consume prime farmland around Cornelius for industrial purposes. Others questioned whether or not this would cause unacceptable amounts of industrial traffic to clog Hillsboro streets.
The question of residential density came up as well. The City of Hillsboro has planned for an average density of 12 housing units per acre; and city officials balked somewhat at Metro’s discussion of a 15 unit/acre density–a figure which would include substantial amounts of multistory apartments as well as some single family homes. The discussion also calls for significant retail and commercial development within the parcel as well, which is good to hear.
For me, though, the biggest and most important question is “when”? It’s unclear that the metro area needs additional housing stock at the present time–there is an abundant supply of homes available on the market. Councilor Rex Burkholder noted that the primary issue right now in the housing market is not availability of property, but availability of financing–building new homes won’t make loans easier to come by, and may make the problem worse, by putting downward pressure on housing prices (and reducing the equity on existing financing). If these discussions are merely planning for the future–assuming the economy rebounds and there aren’t a glut of foreclosures on the market–fine; but I have serious reservations about any residential UGB expansions in the near future.
My other concern–especially for an industrial development–is the effect on the transportation infrastructure. I find it interesting how city officials react with horror at the prospect of a few dozen additional 18-wheelers on the roads per day, but don’t seem as concerned with the prospect of 30,000+ additional auto trips per day. TV Highway can’t handle this amount of additional traffic in its current configuration, and even often-discussed proposals to widen it to six lanes would simply move the problem into Beaverton–where it becomes much less tractable (widening Canyon Road east of Hocken Street simply ain’t going to fly). The #57 serves the property, and MAX is a few miles to the north, but a development of this scale needs to seriously consider transport issues (including a substantial amount of transit) before proceeding.