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Volume 12, Issue 1
January 2014


Area 93 now part of Washington County

On New Year's Day 2014, the Multnomah-Washington county boundary changed, bringing “Area 93”—160 acres of land along the western slopes of the Tualatin Mountains—under Washington County jurisdiction. This change marks the first adjustment of this scale to the counties' shared boundary in the 160 years since the border was established.

Officials from both counties, along with state legislators and others, celebrated moving the county sign during a ceremony on January 6.

The boundary change concluded a notable process of multi-jurisdictional cooperation involving state, regional and county officials working together with local property owners and neighboring communities. The process began in 2002, when regional and local governments made the collective commitment to add more than 20,000 acres to the urban growth boundary (UGB), including Area 93.

Because it was too far away from the Portland city boundary, and would be separated by a Rural Reserve corridor for at least 50 years, and because Multnomah County “doesn’t do planning,” there was no jurisdiction to guide the necessary oversight to develop it as an urban area.

Moving the sign was the easy part!

District 2 County Commissioner Greg Malinowski says that he and the other commissioners are committed to making developers and future homeowners pay most of the cost of the needed infrastructure—roads, sewers and drainage, and water. Currently, around 70-80% of the cost of new development is paid for by taxpayers, despite widespread concern that rapid growth is negatively affecting our quality of life.

He says the planning will start with a proposed plan that was developed for the area in 2009, before Multnomah County determined that they couldn’t serve the area. That plan was developed through a public process, and included a mixture of densities and housing types. “We are not like Multnomah County, though,” he says. “They required more undeveloped land and weren’t going to allow development on steep slopes.”

Half-acre lots were mentioned during the early days of the transfer discussions, but Metro, the regional agency that manages growth, is unlikely to accept such low density, and Washington County has no zoning category for that—the least-dense zoning in Washington County is 5-6 lots per acre.

Currently, about 65 property owners have about 75 taxlots in the area. Some of those are long-time family residences that will be unlikely to redevelop. Some of the properties were bought after the area was brought into the UGB in anticipation of future development. A few new homes have been built as replacements under Multnomah County jurisdiction. And some of the long-time landowners are looking forward to selling their land for homes.

One big question is whether a north-south road will be constructed to link Laidlaw with Thompson. It would require a bridge over Ward Creek, which runs through the middle of the area, so it’s unclear whether it would offer enough benefit to justify the expense and disruption to the natural area, which has some very large trees that have grown since the area was first logged around 1900.

Before any development begins, a master plan will be developed through a combination of public input and work by the county planning staff. This process is expected to take as long as three years. 

UGB expansion is intended to provide developable land sufficient to support 20 years of anticipated population and job growth, as required by Oregon law. By defining specific areas where urban development can occur, farm and forest land has been preserved elsewhere in the region.

If you'd like to sign up for the county's Area 93 newsletter, visit


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Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2013