July 28, 2008

Washington County Grabs Bull Mountain By Horns

By Tyler Graf

Washington County planners hope that sometime in 2009 they will be able to move ahead with their plan to develop 500 acres of land on West Bull Mountain, revamping the unincorporated area near Beaverton and Tigard by adding housing, parks and mixed-use commercial centers.

The county is halfway through the first phase of its three-phase planning process. At a community planning forum last week, planners laid out three slightly different possibilities for developing the land.

The county would like to finish the planning process by next year, but before that can happen there is a significant wrinkle that first needs to be ironed out before development can move forward - determining a funding model.

Shoring up money for the project is necessary before it can move forward, said Paul Schaefer, a senior planner with Washington County.

Tax increment financing could be one possible source to help cover development costs. The county also could approach the Oregon Legislature for funding help.

If the funding goes through, the county intends to construct a mixed-use village center, a large recreation park encompassing almost 30 acres, smaller parks, more housing and the possibility of a new school, which is already earmarked by the school district.

Plans to develop the area date back to 2002, when Metro incorporated the 500 acres into the urban growth boundary. While the county will set plans in place is if the area remains that size, planners are also considering the potential for development is an additional 200 acres in West Bull Mountain could be brought into the UGB. Before that would happen, however, Metro would have to vote to bring the 200 acres in the urban growth boundary.

Despite the hazy aspects of the possibility of future development in the Bull Run area, may details are clear.

For example, the county's plans calls for 12 units to occupy each non-park acre, slightly more than Metro's medium-density requirement.

Joe Dills - a consultant with Otak Inc., a private engineering and planning firm - told community members during last week's meeting that he intends the area's development to be less about sprawl and more about quality of life.

"We all want to protect those things Oregonians have tried to protect for years," Dills said.

Making sure the development gestates in an area served by community parks, with weaving trails acting as the veins, is a priority for the planners. The area is already rich with high ridges, verdant valleys, streams, ponds and open fields.

"We can do an array of parks throughout this area, where homes can be no more than two or three blocks away from a park," Dills said.

How ambitious the project ends up being depends on whether the economy manages to improve, said Anne Madden, Washington County's program educator. Real estate economists have already told the county's planners that the mixed-use village center would be more feasible as a modest project of little more than five acres.

Originally published by Tyler Graf.

(c) 2008 Daily Journal of Commerce (Portland, OR). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.