Sherwood City Councilor Tim Rosener Would Have His Constituents Believe Asking Metro for Land is the Last Stop to Unfettered and Uncontrolled Growth

It’s getting to the point in the Portland Metro Area where even asking for land to be considered for inclusion in a city UGB is a political football.

Just last Friday (3/16/18) we posted an article about an unscientific, leading poll about Sherwood West, authored by Sherwood City Council Member Tim Rosener.  Sherwood West is a possible target for the City of Sherwood for future expansion and the City has to formally ask Metro to consider including it if they want any opportunity to grow in that area.

Three days after posting his push poll results, Rosener took his campaign against Sherwood West public and turned the rhetoric up a notch. He released an update on his website that pretends to be a comprehensive web resource for information on Sherwood West.  The site boasts links to his poll results, some nifty poll analysis, and links to several other resources he calls supporting docs and data.  All this information is posted on Rosener’s website, supposedly for educational purposes.

The page starts out with this blaring headline:

“ARE WE READY FOR 3,868 to 5,155 MORE HOMES?”

By most accounts, Rosener is a smart guy.  The company Rosener recently sold, Accella, is responsible for creating a system called “e-permitting” that many Oregon cities and counties utilize for processing permits, so Rosener is not a newby to the growth debate.  Rosener is certainly smart enough to know growth discussions for a city are always a balancing act between providing enough room for necessary growth and the sometimes emotional response of residents who are concerned about growth’s impact on resources.  A headline like this not a mistake and is meant to prime the emotional pump, eliciting an anti-growth response.

The dramatics continue.  The site claims that if Sherwood West is brought into the Sherwood UGB, the city can expect a 57% to 76% increase in density over the next ten years.  Rosener also claims that the only control Sherwood has in the growth process comes via the submittal of the Council’s request to Metro for additional land in the UGB.  He goes on to suggest that “unbalanced residential growth *could* create a $1 million deficit in the annual city Budget.” Let’s examine these assertions:

  • Rosener claims The City of Sherwood can expect a 57% to 76% increase in density over the next ten years if Sherwood West is allowed inside the UGB.

No one knows this number for certain and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible.  The City of Sherwood controls how the UGB area is zoned for future development.  No one can predict increased growth based solely on land being allowed in the UGB.  There will be a massive planning process, infrastructure studies, dozens of individual annexations etc. that must take place before anyone has any idea what will happen in Sherwood West.  The public gets an opportunity to shape Sherwood West in all of these  actions and the Council will have their input as well.

Yes, the City of Sherwood will need to at least attempt to meet Metro’s density standards for any land brought into its UGB, but plenty of cities have gamed that process to lessen the effect of growth or slow growth beyond a ten-year horizon.  Besides, all the council is considering right now is a request to Metro for inclusion.  Stating you should not request land for future expansion because it might lead to exponential growth is jumping to an extreme conclusion.

Let’s not forget that just because an area is placed inside the UGB, that doesn’t mean it will develop.  The Springwater Expansion Area in Gresham has been in the UGB, planned for by the City of Gresham for nearly 10 years and STILL doesn’t have any new housing or growth.  Damascus has been in the UGB for 10 years and large parts of that area are not even planned.  There is no mention of these facts on Rosener’s site.

  • Rosener claims that the only control the City of Sherwood has available to stop or slow growth in Sherwood West is through the UGB request process occurring right now in Sherwood and if Sherwood does not choose to reduce or eliminate the request, rampant growth will follow soon after.

This claim is 100% bogus. First, simply requesting inclusion by Metro doesn’t guarantee anything at all.  The City of Hillsboro begged on many occasions to include the South Hillsboro Residential Expansion Area and several North Hillsboro Industrial sites into the UGB only to have Metro turn them down.  In fact, during the last round of proposed expansion in 2015, Metro turned everyone down and recommended adding nothing!  Sherwood requesting inclusion of land in their UGB does not mean Metro is going to automatically grant the UGB expansion.

Secondly, the assertion above is ignorant of the current development process.  In the event Metro approves the expansion, the next order of business is creating a community plan as Rosener states; but contrary to Rosener’s claims, Metro never enforces the 2-year timing deadline for completion unless a city is completely ignoring it.  It’s more of a guideline than it is a deadline; so long as a city is working on the plan, Metro is happy.

Also, Rosener is missing a major chunk of the development timeline in his assessment.  Post completion of the general planning process for the area, the city will need to negotiate the cost of infrastructure improvements, a time-consuming process.  Private development Sherwood West and the City of Sherwood must come to an agreement on public improvements for growth, including sewer, water, roads and parks.  This negotiation often takes years to complete, with the most recent process in South Hillsboro pushing three years before resolution.

Sherwood West is at a minimum five years from developing at all and after development does begin it will generally only develop at a rate the City and the housing market allow.  Between delays in planning, the engineering process and building permit submittals, each new subdivision will take 18-24 months just to get to a spot where the FIRST home can be built and that’s AFTER years and years of planning and negotiating.  Furthermore, applications are only going to be made if the market is good.  From 2008 to 2012, almost no new subdivisions were built in all of Washington County.  The market is a huge factor in how fast an area develops.

  • Rosener claims that unbalanced residential growth *could* lead to a 1-million-dollar budget deficit and an influx of 3,000 to 4,000 more students, taxing the schools.

The sky *could* fall tomorrow as well.  Given the lack of tangible numbers, isn’t it just as plausible that the City of Sherwood *could* end up with a surplus?  If Sherwood West manages to make it into the UGB, Sherwood will undoubtedly create a second tier of higher SDC’s to pay for the entire increase in required infrastructure upgrades, thereby putting the onus for paying these growth-related expenses on builders and developers in Sherwood West.

The School District will get approximately $2,000 per student for every new home added to the community (assuming they impose their construction excise tax, which they will) for new facilities and the state pays every District on a per student basis for the kids who attend their school on a yearly basis.  It’s up to the City and the School District to properly utilize these funds wisely to avoid shortfalls.  That is exactly why city and school district government exist.

At this point, the decision before the Council is only if they should request land for future development from METRO; nothing more, nothing less.  They are literally asking another public body (Metro) for permission, a simple yes or no answer, to grow on some adjacent land when growth makes sense.  Metro can still say no.  If they say yes, the city and its residents will still have multiple bites at the apple to shape the future of Sherwood West and Rosener himself will have the right to vote on each decision point, making sure the new area meets his constituent’s needs.

Given these facts, why is it necessary for a public official to mislead his constituents and stoke anti-growth sentiment?  A responsible public official considers the facts provided throughout the process and makes decisions based on what is best for the community.  The citizens of Sherwood deserve leaders who understand their role as a member of a City Council.  The City of Sherwood deserves better.