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Archive for December, 2007

Its time to starting thinking about the ‘I’ word.

Posted by Peter W on December 10, 2007

The Oregonian had an article about Washington County thinking about the ‘A’ word: Annexation. The county will be having discussions in 2008 to talk about how to provide urban services and so far it sounds like they’ve just been discussing annexations (which of course Beaverton and Hillsboro are happy to talk about too).

Might it also be time to start talking about the ‘I’ word: incorporation? Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to have just two sprawling cities. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have Aloha, Reedville, South Hillsboro, and North Bethany urbanize and become towns or cities.

The advantage of incorporation over annexation is that citizens would have more voice in what their tax money goes to (which seems to be people’s biggest reason to resist annexation – they don’t want the cities to siphon off tax money without providing something valuable in return).

Of course, people may not even feel the need to be incorporated, since they currently get ‘urban’ services from non-city sources such as the Parks District (THPRD), the Fire District (TVF&R), the county’s enhanced sheriff patrols in urban areas, Clean Water Services (sewage and storm water management), and a county wide library service. In addition, the county provides urban transportation infrastructure and is now doing urban planning for North Bethany and West Bull Mountain.

It seems like the two options are:

1. Combine all the currently urban, unincorporated area into a new mega-city.

Basically the county would spin off its urban services into a new city that would serve all of the urban unincorporated area in the county.

2. Encourage incorporation of separate cities.

The best way to encourage this would be to make it known that the county wants this, let people know what they need to do for this to happen, and most importantly, the county would scale back the urban services it provides. I think scaling back services would have the biggest effect. What if the library system only served people within city boundaries? What if the sheriff patrols were equalized between urban and rural areas? What if when the county planned for new areas, they also planned for them to incorporate as a new town? Finally, what if the county declared that only areas inside cities would be eligible for urban transportation infrastructure improvements?

The main advantage of having many smaller towns or cities is that they could each be designed to be self sufficient, with a good jobs/housing mix and a town center with grocery stores and markets, restaurants, a library, fitness centers and other things people use often. That would make peoples communities more livable, make it easier to walk or bike to commute or for errands, and would reduce cross-county automobile trips.

This is wishful thinking now, but they could also link up each town or city center with high speed and frequent rail service to make getting around easy for folks who need to. This is even more wishful thinking, but if there was green fields between towns, you would be just a short walk away from the country, and people could get food from very nearby local farms (can you imagine what will happen when we run out of oil, gas costs $30 a gallon, and our society still depends on trucking in food from even just 20 miles away?).

I’m looking forward to bringing these ideas to discussion next year.

Posted in beaverton, hillsboro, north bethany, parks, planning, washington county | Leave a Comment »