Development News May 2023

Stay Prevents Residential Development in Some SNR Areas

By LUT staff

Great blue heron, photo by Jim Long

Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation (LUT) cannot approve new land division and development applications for residential projects in areas mapped as Wildlife Habitat per a stay issued by the state Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). The stay will remain in effect until Oct. 1, 2024.

The stay stems from a petition filed with LCDC, asking LCDC to direct the County to update its development standards for housing to be clear and objective, in compliance with a statutory provision (ORS 197.307, as amended by 2017 legislation) designed to increase housing development. According to a ruling from the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), these updates also require the county to undergo a full Goal 5 process to ensure adequate protection of Significant Natural Resources (SNR), which will take about 18 months.

We are already working to update our provisions protecting significant natural resources in the urban unincorporated areas of Washington County. The stay prevents us from approving residential applications in mapped Wildlife Habitat areas until this work is completed. As per the stay, we must complete this work by October 1, 2024.  Learn more here.

Peterkort northwest corner

From the original Master Plan, showing a different vision for the corner where Life Time is now. The changing retail environment has led Peterkort Co. to adapt.

A reader asked about plans for the northwest corner of Barnes and 113th, across Barnes from the Life Time development. All the land around the intersection is owned by J. Peterkort & Co. They initially unveiled a Master Plan in 2004 and submitted it to Washington County. The property was annexed into Beaverton in 2005. Their 2014 Planned Unit Development (PUD) application denotes that corner for “midrise apartments.” Lot 1 of the Master Plan comprises 20 acres and includes the daycare property. In April 2021 the company received Beaverton’s permission for a time extension for the Preliminary Partition that had been initially approved in 2016. It was supposed to have expired last month, but Beaverton Planning Manager Jana Fox explained that “The City added a COVID time extension tolling provision which gave all projects basically a pause on running out their approval timeframes from March 13, 2020 until December 31, 2021. This application, since it was valid at the start of COVID, got the full extension (clock pause) so the new expiration date is actually—when calculating in the COVID time—January 25, 2025. This approval just allows them to record a three-lot partition plat but does not allow any physical development to occur. We have not received any applications or pre-apps related to development on the site.”

LUT Staffing delays—improvement on the horizon?

Many of the delays in opening the new businesses in Milltowner (corner of Saltzman & Cornell) have been due to staffing issues in the Washington County Land Use and Transportation department (LUT). Current Planning works with developers, consultants, and the public to make sure work is done safely and correctly and make sure they meet requirements in the Community Development Code, which regulates land use and development activities in unincorporated Washington County.. Building Services inspectors have to sign off on various stages of work after completion and before the building can open, following guidelines in the county Building Codes.

Mio Sushi plan

We had a chance to visit the Mio Sushi building recently and heard the same story—as each segment of a commercial building is completed (HVAC, plumbing, et.) the contractor has to wait for inspection before proceeding with the next step. 

Wine and charcuterie party at La Chona!

Stephen Roberts, Director of LUT, recently told us that many of the vacancies that have plagued developers and LUT management alike have been filled in the last few months. He explained that finding skilled, qualified candidates has been a common problem in enterprises everywhere. We were unable to get details so far, but Roberts assured us that the situation was improving.

La Chona is just waiting for a final signoff from the fire inspector and hopes to open soon. They just noted on their Facebook page, “Fire Marshal inspection set for May 5th. Look for potential goodies that evening or the day after.”

We’re getting hungry!

And this just in from LUT Public Information!

County’s Building Services hires on track for July 1

By July 1, Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation hopes to have its Building Services inspectors work group at full staff, which will address inspection delays resulting from a significant number of retirements and resignations that occurred in the last six months.

Other vacancies in the Building Services Permit Technician and Development Review/Current Planning teams have resulted in workload increases for remaining staff.  Washington County and other jurisdictions have struggled to recruit and retain experienced Building Services staff in a tight labor market.

“It’s a statewide problem,” said Scott Linfesty, Washington County Building Official and Oregon Building Officials Association President. “A big part of the issues is a lack of trained personnel because there’s also a shortage of training programs.”

Regardless, Washington County has been fortunate enough to attract qualified candidates.

“We’re on track to have 10 new inspection staff, replacing those who resigned or retired since mid-October,” said Erin Wardell, Manager, Planning and Development Services which includes Building Services. “Six of our new staff started in April or will be starting in May or June, so there will be some training that will occur before everyone is up to speed.”

The County’s shortage of building inspectors created inspection delays since late 2022. Ideally, inspections can be scheduled within one to two business days. Due to the staff shortages, inspections were scheduled out for a long as eight business days.

“To manage customer expectations, we have temporarily capped the number of scheduled daily inspections to increase the likelihood of inspectors making it to all the scheduled inspections,” Wardell said. “This avoids customers having to reschedule at a later date.”

In addition, inspection staff have been conducting video and photo inspections for small jobs and re-inspections when appropriate.

“We plan to return to our target timeframe this summer as the new inspection employees complete training,” Wardell said. “We’re committed to meeting customer expectations while assuring safety standards and building codes are being followed.”

Building, Development fees to increase starting July 1

Fees for building permits and land use applications will be increasing 50% starting July 1, 2023. The increase was approved by the Washington County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting on February 21. 

Both Building Services and Development Review/Current Planning have been struggling with budget shortfalls in recent years. These workgroups are supported entirely by the fees paid for applications and related services. In short, these revenues are not keeping up with rising costs. The fee increases will provide critical funding to provide adequate staffing to help ensure target service levels are sustained. Learn more here.

An independent consultant assessed both work groups’ budgets, staffing and workflows. Based on the independent consultant’s assessment of both Building Services and Current Planning, historic financial performance, fees have not kept up with increasing costs.  To achieve customer service/turn-around times desired by both customers and staff, additional staffing is required. Existing low staffing levels are not sustainable for either employees or our customers, who are sometimes having to deal with unacceptable turnaround times.  

The fee increases will provide critical funding to provide adequate staffing to help ensure target service levels are sustained. Workload and staffing levels change frequently. Review and response times will continue to fluctuate with changes in incoming work and staffing levels.  

In addition, updates to procedures will improve efficency. Read the FAQ for details.