As some of us developers are still left scratching our heads from Metro’s recent decision to keep the Urban Growth Boundary where it is and focus more on higher density, many in the development world were pleased to see that Oregon Law makers this past week voted to strike down an Oregon Law that has been a thorn in the sides of property owners and developers for years.
For nearly four decades a law has existed in several Oregon jurisdictions that required public approval in order for a property to annex into the city. While this law was put in place to help keep in check rampant development, it has effectively stalled property owners for years who desire to sell their property but have not been able to due to the opposition of their neighbors.
This Wednesday, by a House vote of 32-28, the Bill that will end voter required annexation was passed. This bill, which will effectively enable city councils to approve annexations on their own, is set to take effect by no later than April 14th, as long as it’s not vetoed by the Governor (who has yet to comment on the bill’s passing).
What was the catalyst for this change, you ask? The generation-spanning war which made combatants of property owners and home builders as well as cities and citizen advocates was perhaps brought to a head by the decision a few months back from the City of Sherwood. Sherwood found itself in the middle of the political cross hairs as voters struck down a 102-acre annexation south of SW Brookman Road, the third such rejection in recent years.
One of the property owners of a parcel in the 102-acre annexation had words to say about the aged law.
“I think the problem with a public vote on this (annexation) is that small opposition groups are hard campaigning and very vocal, whereas others are ambivalent and don’t even bother to vote,” Brewer wrote. “Now that three elections have passed, the need for housing continues and is getting rather dire.”
Senate Bill 1573’s chief aim is just that: to find a total package solution to tackle Portland’s ever expanding housing dilemma. It intends to do that, quite literally, from the ground up. The fact that the bill passed is proof for many that a change was needed. Oregon City, which had a track record of being one of the toughest cities to get property annexed, has a mayor in full support of the bill, stating, “I’m very pleased that it passed. I have been very public about saying that I regret what I consider to be an error of my youth that I campaigned for voter-approved annexation in Oregon City.”
Moving forward, one thing is clear, the landscape of Portland’s land and housing markets continues to shift and flow very freely and as Portland continues to flex its expansion muscles, we can only hope that the cause and effect relationship between its housing market and demand continues to move into a greater state of balance. In the eyes of many developers and property owners alike, SB 1573 is a great victory indeed. Many see it as the opportunity to focus on properties that have previously been skipped over, properties within city limits, and therefore having the right to proceed with development under the City’s already-granted zoning and development guidelines.