Defying county, Tualatin marks Basalt Creek subarea for residential use
The Tualatin City Council pushed aside concerns expressed by intergovernmental partners Monday in designating the "central subarea" of its Basalt Creek planning area for future residential development.
The 63-acre subarea, located south of Tualatin's Victoria Gardens subdivision, has been a source of unease as Tualatin works to finalize a draft land use concept map. Late last year, the architectural and engineering firm Otak contacted the city to point out physical constraints and propose it be developed with housing rather than industrial manufacturing or business parks. The council was split at the time, but on Monday, there appeared to be consensus for the residential designation.
The Basalt Creek planning area is located between Tualatin to the north and Wilsonville to the south. The cities agreed in 2015 on a plan for dividing it between them, with the future jurisdictional boundary running along Basalt Creek Parkway, an east-west road now under construction. Both cities have to jointly approve a land use concept map for the entire area, with a meeting between their city councils expected this spring.
The subarea in question is located north of the parkway, between Grahams Ferry Road to the west and a non-developable canyon to the east.
Although Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden has pushed for Tualatin to set aside as much of its portion of Basalt Creek for industrial development as possible, he led the council Monday in saying a residential designation for the subarea is most appropriate.
"I struggle to figure out how you can use it," Ogden said, noting steep slopes that complicate development. "And I realize we're concept-planning here … and that at this level of the process, we shouldn't be talking about, in my opinion, cul-de-sac layouts and sewer lines and that sort of thing, and specifically where they go and how they work. But we should be talking about if they can work or not, and I just don't see how they could work."
Council President Joelle Davis, who has advocated in vain for Basalt Creek Parkway to be built further to the south of its current alignment, agreed.
"It is not appropriate to build industrial, or the road itself, on an area that has the kind of topography that we're looking at, in my opinion. I don't think it belongs there," Davis said.
She added, "I would love to see someone build some affordable housing … in this area."
The central subarea is separated from Victoria Gardens by a fence that runs along what is now Tualatin city limits. On the subarea itself, there are some scattered farm buildings and private drives, as well as grazing cattle and a few stands of trees.
The draft plan presented by Tualatin city staff proposed that a strip of the subarea along that fence be zoned for residential development, with the rest slated for industrial zoning. Planning Manager Aquilla Hurd-Ravich said city planners think the subarea can support industry in the "long term."
"This area was pointed out to be more challenging than the rest because of topography," Hurd-Ravich said. "It appeared to be one of the last pieces that would get developed for those reasons."
Including the subarea, there are about 184 developable acres on Tualatin's side of the Basalt Creek area.
Most of the Basalt Creek area west of Grahams Ferry Road is designated for industrial development on Tualatin's draft land use concept map. That land is flatter and seen as more conducive to that type of development.
The council's direction to city staff that they change the subarea's designation to residential came despite letters from Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck to the council urging Tualatin to keep the land industrial.
A letter from Duyck last October warned that Tualatin reducing its share of Basalt Creek land designated for industrial development would be a "big mistake." The county chairman followed that with a Jan. 12 letter that concluded, "I continue to stress that, given the analysis, the land should remain employment land as indicated in the planning work conducted by the cities of Tualatin and Wilsonville."
Basalt Creek remains unincorporated. County approval is needed before it is annexed into the cities.
Duyck's Jan. 12 letter noted that the analysis of both county staff and the design services firm Mackenzie, which the county contracted to evaluate the central subarea, is that business park development would be feasible there.
Councilor Paul Morrison, who lives in Victoria Gardens, told The Times that analysis was "flawed" because it made incorrect assumptions about road access.
Duyck responded to a request for comment Tuesday with a brief statement saying he "stands by the concerns he has expressed in his correspondence with the City of Tualatin."
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times