A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

In South Albany, a plan to help big subdivision

Written January 4th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Looking west on Ellingson Road from Columbus, where a 226-lot subdivision is planned, on Jan. 4.

Before the rain started on Saturday, the bike took me to the corner of Columbus Street and Ellingson Road at Albany’s southern edge. On the acreage northwest of the corner, a Beaverton company wants to develop a 226-lot subdivision, and the city staff is proposing to contribute $500,000 to help get it started.

The proposal comes up before the Albany City Council’s first work session of the year on Monday afternoon. A memo to the council lays out the deal, and you can read it here. It’s the agenda item called “Columbus Street Funding Discussion.”

Here’s the history: In 2005, Albany voters approved the annexation of a 106-acre tract known as Henshaw Farms at Columbus and Ellingson. In 2014, the planning commission approved a tentative plat for a subdivision there of 223 single-family lots plus three parcels zoned for commercial and apartment use. A traffic study said this would add 2,300 vehicle trips to nearby streets and intersections, which would be able to handle the increase.

But city-imposed conditions — including full street improvements along Columbus — raised the costs so that development has not yet taken place.

The Beaverton-based developer, Metropolitan Land Group (MLG), and the city worked out a proposal, and city officials will lay it before the council on Monday. It calls for the city to give the developers $500,000 from transportation system development charges toward street work along Columbus. In return, the developers won’t claim a certain amount of credits to which they otherwise would be entitled as land east of Columbus is developed in coming years.

The city is interested in getting the subdivision started because it will make possible the development of the rest of the area south of Oak Creek as outlined in the South Albany Area Plan.

In a letter, Darrel L. Smith of MLG said that even with the city’s participation in the cost, “MLG will incur added expense to its development budget, but the city’s participation will certainly help make the project more feasible.”

Pedaling south on Columbus, into a stiff headwind, I was wondering about something. For years officials in Albany and elsewhere have been telling everyone that residential development never pays for what it costs in public services. So why encourage even more of this growth? (hh)

And here we’re looking north on Columbus, where the subdivision and costly street improvements are planned.

The plan for the Henshaw Farms subdivision at Ellingson (left) and Columbus (bottom).


28 responses to “In South Albany, a plan to help big subdivision”

  1. GregB says:

    I see the BPA Albany to Lebanon 115kv power line goes right thru the proposed development.

  2. Ben says:

    We have priced most middle class out of home ownership. When taxes, regulation, and fees are now approaching 25% of the monthly rents or mortgages it’s no wonder we have a housing crisis. We need more homes NOW to stop the inflation Whatever incentives get it done I support.

    • Roy Arehart says:

      I agree with you Ben, that more housing is needed. However the final sale price of all these new homes will be in the range of 70 to 100 million dollars!! Let that sink in… why should any of our tax dollars go to help a private developer. I want to hear from our council on why it’s a good idea to take from transportation or any city money at all!!

    • James Stahlnecker says:

      Its ridiculous the avg rent in Albany (2 bedroom) is $1100 a month. If experts say rent should be 30% of income, who can afford this? Most of my lowered paid coworkers have roomates, or slowly loosing their house, having no “affordable housing”(under $800 a month) to turn to.

  3. George Kurtz says:

    I have harbored what must be a mistaken idea that Oregon laws do not allow agricultural lands to be converted to developments like this. Seems a shame!

    • Bob Bailey says:

      George: Yes, ag land is being converted but through a controlled process. The land has to be within the approved city Urban Growth Boundary and justified on the basis of need projected over 20 years. Then the land has to be actually annexed by the city to eligible for city water and sewer and in this case the voters had to approve it. So yes, there is still, sadly, erosion of ag lands at the edges of cities but at least it is a publicly controlled process. My biggest complaint is the lack of grocery and other commercial services. Everyone (including us just off Moraga St) has to get in the car and drive 3 miles or more to shop for groceries. My other complaint is the inability of the city to infill all the large vacant lots in S. Albany. Doing do would alleviate the need to expand onto ag lands.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    And our “local” residential streets continue to crumble.

    • Roy Arehart says:

      I agree with you Bill, and would say no city money should go to help private projects!! Let alone money from transportation!!

  5. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    How will the schools in South Albany district be able to efficiently take on that amount of new students?

  6. Pat McNulty says:

    Interesting that the city budget has a shortfall causing the possibility of the closure of the downtown library and the city pool amongst other things, yet there is A HALF A MILLION dollars that is being used as an incentive for the developer.

    • James Stahlnecker says:

      They’re hoping more residents will mean more money. More houses may help reduce rent skyrocketing. Biggest issue i agree, if theres a way to moderate rising cost on rent/housing so it wont cause forclosures or homelessness (Supply and Demand).

  7. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Your question is a good one. And the problem is easy to see when you look at the city’s explanation of System Development Charges: ONE-TIME charges on new development to pay for expanding public services.

    Imposing a one-time, first generation charge in exchange for taking on a permanent obligation is simply stupid.

    The issue is the second life cycle and beyond. Every foot of road, water pipe, sewer, and stormwater drainage will eventually have to be replaced numerous times. Most of the new children will need a decent school to attend. New residents will need protection from fire and crime. New residents will need a park.

    It is inherently unfair to current taxpayers who have already paid their way. It is inherently unfair to future taxpayers who will eventually be saddled with the cost of crumbling infrastructure.

    The problems sound familiar, no?

    “So why encourage even more of this growth”? Good question, especially for a city like Albany whose local government has a long history of short-term thinking.

  8. HowlingCicada says:

    Concern about flooding? As best as I can tell from city data, the lowest-elevation house lots seem only about 6 to 8 feet higher than Oak Creek. The 100-year flood plain barely misses some of them, and we all know how badly “100-year” data has fared. Caveat: I’m only an amateur dabbler in GIS (Geographic Information Systems).

    Regardless, I could imagine living there. Sell me a thoroughly-modern 500-600 sq.ft. modular house on stilts with movable interior walls, rooftop garden, and almost no impervious surface (or maybe some solar panels), isolated enough from all roads to be unaware of their presence.

    One more thing I need, the non-motorized-transport amenities in Appendix F of the South Albany Area Plan including some kind of “parkway” next to Oak Creek. The whole plan and its appendices can be downloaded from:
    I only glanced through this quickly – there may be lots of other unattainable gems.

    Of course, I don’t expect the possibility of either one happening during my lifetime plus an extra two decades.

  9. Ray Kopczynski says:

    As HC showed the link…

    The 2013 South Albany Area Plan is just that – a long term (50 year) “plan” trying to envision what that area could look like if there was some thought put into how to mitigate the *inevitable* growth we’re seeing. All involved knew/know full well that even with said plan, if no developer ever comes in to make it work, it simply gathers dust. MANY! very-very good maps in the plan for sure– showing how streets, school, fire station, park, industrial areas were being thought out.

    I certainly would much rather have a realistic & managed plan vs. simply rampant sprawl.

    Of course, it takes time and some effort to look at it vs. the usual shooting-from-the-hip reactions that are usual…

  10. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Why doesn’t the city authorize a special purpose taxing district for these new developments in lieu of one-time impact fees?

    Lots of cities have them. Google Mesa, Arizona and Eastmark for a good example.

    It involves an annual fee levied on homeowners in a specific geographical district for infrastructure creation, improvement, maintenance, and repair. No subsidy from the city.

    Best of all, a SEPARATE political entity from the city is created to govern the hows, whens, and what fors. Heck, I’d even be open to giving the district the power to issue bonds to finance the work.

    Ahhh, there’s the rub. It would involve taking power away from the Mayor and Council and giving it to a SEPARATE entity.

    Translation – doesn’t have a chance in Albany.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      I followed your advice and found this overview of what you’re talking about: https://bit.ly/39I7ssI

      When you read through it, ’tis a scary concept IMO… No wonder it indicates (as far as I can tell) nothing like it is being used in Oregon…

      I’ll stick with the “devil-I-know”…thank you!

  11. Richard Smith says:

    When we are putting out money, when we don’t really have it, as proven by our other needs that are not getting met, it is WRONG! We are discussing closing Maple Lawn, a library, have crappy streets, drivers can’t get from North Albany into downtown, on and on, yet let’s just throw another half million at another out-of-town developer. What about the next taxpayer funded money grab by the Albany schools…we already pay a lot for inferior schools! Who is kidding who? All of these costs get forced upon the current resident property owners, who get zero benefit from a large development benefitting an out-of-town developer.

    Why are the costs not being fully passed through to those who will live there? Several years ago, the residents of a portion of North Albany were saddled with thousands of dollars each to pay for a traffic circle that no one wanted. It (supposedly) benefits the public at large, yet a very few are now forced to pay for it for fifteen years. Now, because this proposed development is located in south Albany, the rest of us are expected to pay for it? Why???

    We need to exercise fiscal responsibility! There is no reason we should be spending any additional taxpayer money for this! Why not just say NO to the whole thing? If it does not get built, there is zero need for additional taxpayer funding! Just think…it’s not really just a half million dollars…add in schools, public safety needs, ongoing road issues, etc., and it adds millions to the taxpayer debt. When is the city going to consider those who fund these city hall job preservation ideas? The time is come to say NO! If it involves additional taxpayer money, we do not need it!

    • Ginny Jordan says:

      I agree wholeheartedly! I live just off of 34th and Hill Streets. Traffic in our (once) quiet little neighborhood was manageable but, no more with the addition of the apartment complex on the south side of 34th at Tudor Way. Not to mention the homes built southward on Hill Street, etc.!

      A half a million dollars could be used to fix streets, keep Maple Lawn Preschool operating, etc. But, no … Albany’s “big fish in a little pond” (powers that be) want to inundate us with more traffic and less
      services! While the folks who used to be able to afford rent can no longer do so because Albany landlords keep raising rents because “they can”! Pretty soon we will have more of our neighbors who are homeless.

  12. J Taylor says:

    When my Dad was building in this town in the late 70’s and 80’s, no one paid him to build here.
    Why should we pay a Beaverton builder that can certainly afford to pay their own way? They slap up cheaply built houses and walk away. We, the long term residents, are asked to eat the 500k? Am I the only one that finds paying a builder shocking? This on the heels of a Portlander deciding our high school name, Rebels, was offensive and pouring his entire being into getting it changed. Really? 750k worth of taxes for an ‘offensive’ name? That’s a really good use of taxpayers money. Meanwhile, they tell us Albany can’t handle the influx of demands on the fire department, police force etc. I don’t recall getting to vote on where the funds are going. So, more traffic, more roads, more schools, more bike lanes and more stores. And a lot more taxes. Less Police support, closing libraries? Does no one else see the ridiculousness of building bike lanes from here to Corvallis and then cutting back in local services?

  13. Rich Kellum says:

    On the other hand folks, you could show up at the meeting and express your thoughts, I for one will be asking why we should wait for decades for money so that an out of area developer can make a profit now. There will either be good answers to that question or not… and that will determine how I vote.

  14. Joseph Hilleary says:

    You need to wake up the cost of housing will continue to rise more Californians will come as well as illegal immigrants with all of there problems is that really what we want here and taking our tax dollars that should be used for streets and roads is not fair and other things for our community how about a vote on it

  15. Joseph Hilleary says:

    It needs to be put to a vote in which I as a taxpayer vote NO MORE WE ARE DONE WITH YOUR OVERSIGHT AND OVERSPENDING

  16. Joseph Hilleary says:

    Here’s another question why is somebody from Portland telling us the taxpayers in albany,Oregon what our school should be named ? We need to end this ridiculous mess and let the people here decide what we want this just gets more and more like communism we are supposed to be a democracy

  17. Warren says:

    Here’s the problem you have people out there in Albany that are one paycheck away from being homeless think about that now you have rent at 1100 Plus or two-bedroom maybe even a one-bedroom and then you take our tax dollars to help out a private owner how about you bring the cost of housing down 12 people can actually afford it without having to worry if they’re going to have electricity water food there’s something to think about

  18. CHEZZ says:

    Why does California and illegal immigrants come up with housing as well as everything else? That is a very short sided if not one sided claim! You need to get out more to see a larger picture of life, definitely beyond city limits. The population is growing more form other states than California. Please read some stats. I value all immigrants; they are hard working folks. We are all immigrants. How do you wish to be treated?

  19. thomas cordier says:

    The govn’t does not have a responsibility to provide lower cost housing. If you can’t afford cost of local housing—relocate to another area you can afford. There are areas in Oregon who’ve decided to not grow and allowed housing costs to be market driven. Redirect the “planning lobby”
    in Albany to find another job.

  20. Therese says:

    I do not support farm land being re-zoned for more housing. We need to look into the future, where we might have water issues, fire issues and preserve land that can be farmed or acts as wetlands. Also, good points about this costing us more taxes. I saw that in Corvallis as more and more students were invited in, more affordable houses torn down for expensive student housing. Part of the high cost of housing is the real estate and development industries who have high sights for making lots of money. They tend to inflate costs. Finally, when we ought to be thinking about reducing people’s carbon foot print, why are we thinking of building far away from city services, stores etc??

  21. Bill Higby says:

    I completely agree with all the comments about spending our tax money on street improvements for new developments. Drive down 38th Street. How about some City funds to fix that rough riding road.


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