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Volume 16, Issue 7
July 2018


County Land Use Ordinances

Each year, the Washington County Board of Commissioners (BCC) considers and votes on Land Use Ordinances. March through October is considered to be “Ordinance season.”

The county website says, “A land use ordinance adopts, amends or repeals provisions of the Washington County Comprehensive Plan.” The Comprehensive Plan is essentially the “laws” of land use for the rural and urban areas of the county, covering everything from building and lot sizes, density and zoning, to restrictions on animals and firearms.

A thorough description of the process was included in our September 2014 issue.

Based on their marching orders from the Annual Work Program, Land Use and Transportation (LUT) staff spends time between November and April preparing drafts of potential Ordinances, and sometimes publishes “Issue Papers” with detailed discussions of the pros and cons of various issues.

Once an Ordinance is ready to go to the BCC, it’s filed with the state and presented to the appointed members of the Planning Commission for comments. Then the BCC deliberates on each Ordinance during at least three regular meetings. Members of the public, business representatives, and public involvement groups can present testimony during any of the hearings, in person or in writing (or both). The Board can make additions or changes, called engrossments, until the Ordinance is voted on.

The Main Street area of North Bethany includes dense housing, parks, and mixed-use.

So far this year, eight Ordinances have been filed on topics including standards for food cart pods, (A-Engrossed Ordinance 831); fair housing and group care facility standards (832); agreements with cities over Urban Planning Areas (836, 837); and rules to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) (835).

Omnibus Ordinances, such as 833, change and modify a number of smaller, unrelated issues in the Comprehensive Plan. Devils can lurk in the details of some of these. Most Ordinances, however, treat with single, larger issues. The Ordinance page of the county website has links to the text of each item, plus background information and supporting documents, along with dates for hearings.

The most recent addition to the list is Ordinance 838 that would adopt standards for the Main Street area of North Bethany. The final report on the North Bethany Main Street Urban Design Plan was issued in late June after a public process led by Washington County Long-Range Planning staff and a team of consultants.

From the introduction: “The Main Street Area is located on both sides of Kaiser Road, between Brugger Road and Shackelford Road… The Neighborhood Commercial Mixed-Use district (NCMU NB) will accommodate a variety of retail and commercial uses, as well as multi-family housing on upper floors; the R-25+ NB district will provide areas for multi-family attached housing at a residential density of 20 to 25 units per acre; and the R-24 NB district will accommodate single-family attached and multi-family housing at a residential density of 19 to 24 units per acre.” The district is intended to be a pedestrian-oriented shopping and service area, and the standards are meant to encourage that use.

Among the recommendations, we were pleased to note, are standards for “Weather protection” in the form of canopies, awnings, and arcades. These are important elements of a shopping area in the northwest that is meant for walking!

The report notes that several important factors are not included in the report—improvements to Kaiser Rd. within the district proposed by Polygon Northwest are under review by LUT staff; a proposed community center is being discussed with THPRD; and plans for a future transit plaza await TriMet’s decision on when and whether to serve the new community with transit.

Remember that most of you who read the Cedar Mill News don’t live in a city (despite our Portland addresses) so these Washington County Ordinances can have great influence on our daily lives. Staying aware of the proposed Ordinances, and commenting on them, either alone or through an interest group, is the best way to ensure the long-term livability of the county. The county ordinance website has a link to let you sign up for updates.CPO 1 is an excellent forum to discuss these issues, as well.


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Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
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Portland, Oregon 97291
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