Multnomah County

Where We Live: Oregon's Urban Growth Boundary

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Portlanders take it for granted that we can be surrounded by nature in literally a matter of minutes. It's why so many people move here and find it hard to leave. Our connection to natural beauty is no accident.

It's the law -- and an essential part of Where We Live.

Drone video taken over North Bethany tells much of the story of urban growth. New construction to accomodate a fast-growing population is directly adjacent to the farm and forest land for which Oregon is known.

It's not a straight line, but a line in the sand against the urban sprawl that plagues cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix.

"It was a tough conversation at the time, but I think Oregonians were really adamant," said Nick Christensen with Metro, the regional government that manages the Urban Growth Boundary. "I think we still are, that we want to protect the farms and forests that make Oregon great."

A map of the urban growth boundary for the Portland area show 258,000 acres in which development can occur -- and no development outside it.

State law established the Urban Growth Boundary in 1979. Every city in Oregon is required to have one, although in Portland one boundary covers all f Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

"The Willamette Valley and the Tualatin Valley have some of the best farmland on earth, and so we're really focused on making sure that we protect that farmland to the extent that we can, to support the agricultural economy in those areas," Christensen said.

Some argue that restricting development raises housing prices and depresses the value of the farmland. But the Urban Growth Boundary is adjusted to ensure a 20-year supply of land that can be developed.

Portland's Urban Growth Boundary has been updated more than 30 times, most recently in 2010 in Hillsboro.

The biggest obstacle to development at the boundary's edge is paying for infrastructure like roads and utilities. Those costs are passed onto homebuyers -- which does push up housing prices.

Oregon, Washington and Tennessee are the only states in the country that require all cities to have an urban growth boundary, although there are many individual cities and counties that have some form of one.


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