Urban Needs, Rural Government
Urbanization Forum gets down to the details
Washington County’s Urbanization Forum was convened last spring to consider what many think of as the problem of Urban Unincorporated Areas (UUAs) in the county. (For background, you can read our series Urban Needs, Rural Government)
A panel consisting of elected representatives from the county’s cities, County Commissioners, leaders of the various service providers (Clean Water Services, Sheriff, etc) and Metro was convened and led by Mark Cushing, partner and chair of the government relations and policy practice at Tonkon Torp. Citizens, including former Washington County Commissioner John Leeper, complained that the very people who would be most affected by the outcome of the forum, the people who live in the UUAs, were not represented on the panel. Cushing and others contend that Metro and Washington County Commissioners are elected to represent them and were doing so on the panel.
During the introductory session panel members introduced themselves and stated their views of the situation. Several of the mayors took the unsurprising view that cities are the only way to govern urbanized areas.
The next couple of sessions were devoted to a discussion of the fate of land that will be added to the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) in the future. Again, the panel predictably reached the conclusion that any new land to be added should immediately be annexed by the nearest city. Many details of this agreement have yet to be worked out, including what to do with areas that are not contiguous with a city, and how to split up areas that are near more than one city. It’s unclear at this point whether this agreement will require state legislative action.
During the last session, on October 9, that agreement was reviewed, and then the group addressed the thornier question of what to do with existing UUAs. Cushing announced that these areas would be discussed individually by splitting them up into communities that are related by geography and character.
At the October meeting of the Committee for Citizen Involvement (consisting of the leadership of the county’s Citizen Participation Organizations – CPOs) Cushing announced that seven meetings would take place around the county, in each of the seven designated UUAs: 1) Raleigh Hills, Cedar Hills, West Slope & Garden Home; 2) Cedar Mill; 3) Rock Creek, Bethany (including so-called North Bethany); 4) Aloha and Cooper Mountain; 5) Reedsville; 6) Bull Mountain; and 7) Metzger.
The meetings will consist of Cushing, a county administrator, the County Commissioner representing the area, the mayor or representative of the city or cities of interest, representatives of the service providers, and a citizen representative chosen by the leadership of the relevant CPOs.
Your input is needed
The first question to be addressed at the meeting is whether the city or cities have a desire to annex the area. Cushing said, “Based upon all of the discussions to date, we are not facing an environment in which cities are prepared to or are interested in moving forward with major annexation initiatives.” He said it could be a very short meeting if the answer is no, and the citizen representative says that people in their area don’t have any desire for additional services. “Staying the same” is apparently now a viable option.
However, if citizens aren’t asking for annexation, but want to consider some increase in urban-level services, the meeting will be a place to begin that discussion. Cedar Mill residents, for example, might want to find a way to build more sidewalks or have more control over Town Center planning. The mechanism and the funding for increased services are among the many questions that will have to be answered through further discussion.
The first of these meetings will take place mid-November in Cedar Mill with Virginia Bruce selected by CPO 1 leadership to represent Cedar Mill. Please contact her at 503-629-5799 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know your views so she can bring them to the meeting.