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Volume 14, Issue 2
February 2016


Is BSD planning adequately for growth in our area?
By Virginia Bruce

Since the end of the recession around 2012, housing development in the northern part of Washington County, including Bethany and Cedar Mill, has exploded. Many of us feel we’re watching a session of SimCity when we round a corner and see a housing development that wasn’t there a few months ago. Final approval for North Bethany master plans allowed building to begin in Summer 2013. Bonny Slope West received approval at the end of 2015. Together these two areas alone will bring nearly 6000 homes to the area. Infill development throughout the area will account for several hundred additional homes, at least.

When the county develops a plan for a new community, such as North Bethany, you might think that they would indicate where the schools should go so that the community could be built around them. Instead, schools have to guess where development will happen prior to planning, or wait and buy what’s left over at high prices. Property owners are allowed to sell to the highest bidder, and developers are allowed to maximize their profits by minimizing community space. Because of court decisions in recent years, if land was designated for a school, the owner wouldn’t be able to sell for anything else, and it could be considered a “taking,” meaning that the jurisdiction was reducing a landowner’s potential to profit.

Faulty forecasts?

The Beaverton School District (BSD) is required by Oregon law (ORS 195.110) to work with its jurisdictions (cities, county) to provide adequate school capacity. The District’s latest Facilities Plan, which is used to satisfy this requirement, was issued in 2010, using a population forecast produced by Portland State University’s Population Research Center in 2008 (during the beginning of the recession).

The district updated its population forecast when it went to the voters for the 2014 Bond Measure, but the Facilities Plan has not been updated.

Slowing development?

The question arises—should Washington County cut back on approving new development because of inadequate school capacity? When the county considers a new development, it sends “Service Provider Letters” (SPLs) to the various agencies such as fire, water, and sheriff. The providers look through the plans and mark a checkbox to indicate they have capacity to serve the new development.

Last December, former CPO 7 Chair and current Washington County Planning Commissioner Mary Manseau wrote to BSD Executive Administrator for Facilities, Richard Steinbrugge, noting,

“ORS 195-110 prohibits a building moratorium based upon lack of school capacity. ORS 195.110 allows a city or county to deny a land use application (different and distinct from a moratorium) based upon lack of school capacity if: 1) the issue is raised by the school district; 2) school capacity is based upon a school facility plan; and 3) the jurisdiction has considered options to address school capacity.

“In September 2016, Springville will no longer have the capacity to serve its intended purpose as a K-8 school. In September 2016, with the relocation of the Summa program, Stoller will not able to serve all programs assigned to the school.

“Springville, Stoller and Westview are all operating at over 100% capacity. You say that your SPLs are communicating to the county that BSD no longer has adequate capacity to serve new development north of Highway 26. Nevertheless, you are not checking the ‘inadequate capacity’ box on the SPL. Why the disconnect? You are sending a mixed message to Washington County about the available school capacity to serve development. Without directly stating to Washington County staff that your capacity is inadequate to serve additional new development in the north part of the district, the county will be unable to request denial of a land use application based upon lack of capacity.”

When a school district can’t accommodate growth with existing adjacent schools, there are certain “tools” they must consider to provide additional capacity, mandated by both state law and county code. These include double shifts, portable classrooms, and bussing students to underutilized facilities elsewhere in the district. Because BSD is using many of these tools, it is able to assert that it can provide for the education of students in new development.

Map of projected development within current boundaries of Springville K-8
Graphic adapted from “New Housing Developments” document, 9/23/2014, produced as part of the packet for the decision process for the Springville K-8 - Stoller Middle School Overcrowding Solutions.

Until recently, BSD has been interpreting “capacity,” when submitting SPLs, as district-wide capacity, but the county is interested in local capacity. This reinterpretation is leading to questions.

Andrew Singelakis, Washington County Director of Land Use and Transportation, wrote to Ron Porterfield, BSD Deputy Superintendent, around the same time, that, “Without better guidance from the District, we believe these land use applications (Bethany Creek Park and Arbor Bonny Slope West) are likely to be appealed. The application could be appealed by residents if we approve in light of the SPLs. The application could be appealed by developers if we deny the applications based on school capacity.”

Singelakis now states, however, that, “BSD’s bond program to build and improve schools is a proactive way to address growth in the County, which will address system-wide capacity issues. Our Community Development Code and state law describes a series of tools that school districts can use to address over-crowding in individual schools, which the district employs.”

He continues, “Since these tools are employed, we feel that we have no basis to deny subdivision applications based on school capacity issues. To do so would invite developer appeals, which we believe we would lose if we did deny. BSD did have language in previous service provider letters that talked about these tools and how they can be used to mitigate shorter-term capacity issues in individual schools. LUT is concerned that taking this language out could invite appeals of subdivisions by neighbors. BSD has not asked the county to deny subdivision applications.”

Coordination issues

Another issue that seems to be affecting the ability for BSD to accommodate growth is a potential lack of coordination among the various service districts that provide urban services to the unincorporated areas. For example, BSD acquired two parcels of land north of Springville, in an area that is filling quickly with houses. Plans to build a K-8 school at the site closer to homes currently under development had to be abandoned because Clean Water Services (CWS) doesn’t have sewer capacity to serve that parcel. A K-5 school will be built at another north Bethany site, currently isolated from new development. That site also poses problems in delivering utilities.

Singelakis says, “We have been meeting with CWS and BSD regularly, primarily about the elementary school in Bethany. However, other issues do come up in these meetings. LUT and the District have been discussing ways to expand upon this coordination.”

School funding

Voters passed a Bond Measure in 2014 that raised $680 million for capital projects, which included modernization and repair (55%), additional capacity (35%), and technology upgrades (10%). The total for additional capacity comes to around $238 million. The new middle school in Timberland will cost about $52 million, but won’t be available to increase capacity until 2020, when it finishes being a temporary location for other school populations while their schools are being rebuilt. The new high school at the southern border of the district will cost around $109 million. $3 million was allocated for land acquisition for a new elementary school. $25 million will be used to build the Kaiser Road K-5. The remaining money is earmarked for contingencies.

In addition, since 2007, schools in Oregon may collect a Construction Excise Tax (CET) on new building in the district. The current state maximum is $1.20 per square foot on residential structures, and $0.60 on non-residential uses. Beaverton collects the maximum for both types.

Many people who are concerned about school capacity in the northern part of the district find it troubling that the CET funds that result from new construction are not being used to buy land or build schools, but instead are being used to service *debt incurred for other projects in the district. Although it is apparently a legal use of the funds, they wonder if this is the best use of CET funds. Some would prefer to see some of that money set aside to deal with the school population growth that generates the funds.

Crowded classrooms, playing fields filled with portables, divided neighborhoods, students spending time on long bus rides that clog the roads and contribute to greenhouse gases—we can only hope that BSD is able to catch up to development before these troubles get worse.


*The Full Faith and Credit Obligation (FFCO) issued in 2009 paid for portions of the following: ACMA Auditorium, Health Sciences Option School remodel, Transportation Service Center, and bus particulate filters. The FFCO payments have been funded with a combination of General Fund and CET resources.


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Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
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Portland, Oregon 97291
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