Historic Agreement Reached to Change Washington-Multnomah County Boundary

For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sponsored by: Department of Land Use and Transportation

An agreement between Multnomah and Washington counties was adopted today to resolve an 11-year-old question about “Area 93,” 160 acres of land along the western slopes of the Tualatin Mountains that were brought inside the region’s Urban Growth Boundary in 2002. The solution involves changing the Multnomah-Washington county boundary for the first time in 160 years.

The land transfer will conclude a notable process of multi-jurisdictional cooperation involving state, regional and county officials working together with Area 93 property owners and neighboring communities. Legislation sponsored by Oregon Rep. Tobias Read and Sen. Betsy Johnson authorized the two counties to negotiate the 18-page agreement detailing how the transfer will work. Today’s vote by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners follows approval of the agreement by the Washington County Board earlier this week.

Following a proclamation from Gov. John Kitzhaber, the boundary change is to take effect on January 1, 2014.

“By keeping development within our regional Urban Growth Boundary, we help reduce growth pressure on farm and forest land elsewhere,” said Washington County Board Chair Andy Duyck. “We are thankful to Multnomah County, Metro, Gov. Kitzhaber and our entire legislative delegation for helping us fulfill a promise our region made to Area 93 landowners over a decade ago.”

“This is a significant achievement. At the end of the day, this is about governments working together to fulfill our promises to efficiently provide services to the people in our communities,” said Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen. “The benefits are huge for the residents of Area 93 and for all of us who want to maintain a smart and sustainable approach to growth throughout our region.”

Click to open a pdf of this Area 93 map

Area 93 is about 2.5 miles north of the U.S. Highway 26-Oregon 217 interchange. Due to existing roads and natural features, the land area available for development is estimated to be about half of its 160-acre size. Area 93 is isolated from other urbanized areas in Multnomah County by a rural reserve area approximately one-half mile in width, yet it is contiguous to urbanized Washington County on two sides.

Officials came to the idea of moving the county boundary after significant planning work by Multnomah County. Despite the effort, public services essential for implementing the plan could not be provided in a timely and cost-effective manner by the City of Portland or Multnomah County. These services— such as water, sewer, parks, roads and police protection—are available through annexation to special districts already serving the urban unincorporated residents of Washington County. Property taxes for Area 93 taxpayers will increase as these additional services are provided.  

“Our goal has been to make this change of jurisdiction as close to revenue-neutral for our existing taxpayers as possible,” said Duyck. “Existing Washington County residents should not have to pay for public improvements needed in Area 93—those who benefit should pay for them.”

The agreement adopted today lists the various county services Washington County will begin providing in place of Multnomah County as the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2014. Once the transition has occurred, Washington County planners intend to pick up where Multnomah County left off by engaging the community in a two-year process of planning for future development. Washington County has already begun the process of establishing “placeholder” zoning to take effect the moment the border shifts.

The Multnomah-Washington county boundary was first established in 1854 when the Oregon territorial government created Multnomah County out of what was then Washington and Clackamas counties. Although boundary changes have been made to both counties since then, the Multnomah-Washington boundary has not been adjusted to this scale since that time.

For more information, visit Washington County's Area 93 page at: www.co.washington.or.us/area93 

Henry Stern, Multnomah County Communications Officer

Media Contact:

Stephen Roberts, Washington County Dept. of Land Use & Transportation Communications Coordinator