Forest Grove, Oregon
A supplement to the Development Code
Adopted – March 2009
Forest Grove City Council
Richard G. Kidd, Mayor
Deena E. Barrett
Meredith “Bud” L. Bliss
Rod L. Fuiten
Thomas L. Johnston
Ronald C. Thompson
Peter B. Truax
Forest Grove Planning Commission:
Luann Arnott
Thomas Beck
Aaron Frye
Victoria Lowe
Carl “Al” Miller
Lisa Nakajima
Elena Uhing
City Staff
Jeffrey S. Beiswenger, AICP, Senior Planner
Jon R. Holan, Community Development Director
Assisted by
Crandall Arambula
Adopted – March 2009
Amended May 2015 (Section V)
Amended March 2016 (Section II, Section III)
Why do we need Design Review?
The community of Forest Grove has a desire to maintain its small town character and enhance the quality and functionality of its built environment. The Design Review process uses the Design Guidelines in this Handbook to help achieve this goal. The guidelines help define the City of Forest Grove’s expectations for development and provide a consistent framework to review projects according to specific standards and guidelines.
Vision for Forest Grove
In 1993, the City adopted a vision statement which establishes a series of goals for the community to accomplish by the year 2010. Design review is intended to help the City accomplish the following elements of the vision statement:
   Small town atmosphere. New development should enhance the community’s existing character and help create a livable community for residents, workers and visitors.
   Vibrant and charming downtown. The focus of the community is downtown, with its turn-of-the-century charm and well maintained historic facades. New development should reinforce the positive characteristics of the town center.
   Mobility for residents. While the importance of the auto is recognized, walking, bicycling and transit use are also important. New development should ensure that all mobility types are fostered and safety is enhanced.
   A prospering city. New development should promote the growth and vitality of current business and spur private investment by creating a quality built environment and predictable development framework.
   High environmental quality. “Space to Breathe” is essential to the community. New development should help accomplish this by integrating landscaping, open space and existing natural resources into site designs.     
   Essential services well-planned. Design techniques should consider public safety and security on private property.
Role of Design Review
The design review process recognizes that there are a variety of ways new development could accomplish design objectives. The purpose of the design review process is to provide flexibility and creativity in new development while meeting city requirements and helping projects to achieve community character objectives.
The design review process is established by the city’s Development Code. While most developments are subject to the city’s site plan review process, they may or may not be subject to design review. The design review process applies only to those projects which are in certain locations – the town center or commercial corridor – or are of a certain development type – multi-unit residential, mixed use and commercial buildings. These locations and types of project have a particular significance and impact on the city and thus deserve the special attention that the design review process brings to them.
The projects to which design review applies are divided into four separate categories or “Focus Areas,” depending on their location and/or type, and each with its own set of applicable Design Guidelines. These Focus Areas are 1) Town Center, 2) Commercial Corridor, 3) Multi-unit Residential, and 4) Historic Districts, and are outlined in detail in the guidelines that make up the bulk of this handbook.
The Design Review Process – Which Track?
Forest Grove has a “two track” design review process. For each project to which design review applies, the applicant selects the track most appropriate: Track 1, generally more specific and directive, or Track 2, potentially more flexible.
   Track 1: Development Standards. These applicants refer to parts of the city’s Development Code; the projects are required to meet the clear and objective development standards which are provided in the code. The standards establish a baseline for design which works in conjunction with other requirements of the development code.
   Track 2: Design Guidelines. Track 2 applicants refer to the Guidelines provided in this document, as well as to applicable provisions of the Development Code. These projects must meet the development standards, but would be allowed to vary from these standards if it is demonstrated that related guidelines and objectives were adequately addressed and that the deviation results in a higher quality development than would result under a strict interpretation of the code.
The Design Review Process – How Does it Work?
   The first step is that the developer meets with city planning staff in a “pre-app conference” to have an initial discussion about his project. This meeting should be held early in the development process, because it is a chance to discuss regulations that will affect the project before too much design has been done, and to outline how best to proceed.
   The developer then selects which design review track to follow, and submits the drawings required under that track to the City’s Community Development Department as a “Design Review application.” The developer has three choices:
   O   Track 1 – offering the clarity and certainty of meeting clear and objective standards;
   O   Track 2 – offering the flexibility of interpreting the guideline intentions; or
   O   Combination of Tracks 1 and 2 – a combination approach wherein the project may be evaluated by the standards for some categories and by guidelines for the remainder. This “mix-and-match” approach will however “kick over” the project into the Track 2 review body (see below).
   At the city level, who reviews the project depends on its track and also a size threshold. Smaller projects are reviewed by planning staff in the Community Development Department, while larger projects are subject to Planning Commission review.
   Thus planning staff reviews smaller projects: 
      Multi-unit residential projects of 3-5 units.
      Commercial developments with a total building size less than 10,000 square feet for Track 1 and 3,000 square feet for Track 2.
   Planning Commission reviews projects larger than those listed above. For those larger projects, planning staff prepares a detailed staff report for the Planning Commissioners, who then use it to review the project and make a decision after a public hearing.
   All appeals go to the City Council.
   If the project is approved by the City (by staff, Planning Commission, or City Council) the developer may proceed with the building permit process.
   If the project is not approved, the applicant may redesign the project and re-submit or appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).
How to Use this Document – Project Design Considerations
While only Track 2 projects are evaluated according to these design guidelines, this guidelines handbook is intended to be useful to potential developers who choose Track 1 as well, because it establishes a framework for the intentions and goals of Forest Grove development. That is, whether a developer chooses to follow Track 1 or Track 2, or a combination of Tracks 1 and 2, the end result – quality development in Forest Grove – should be the same. Thus the design considerations covered in these guidelines will be relevant for any project that is subject to design review. The following diagram outlines the design considerations which should be addressed by applicants to achieve the design review goals and be approved. These design considerations are further explained in the guidelines in the remainder of this document.
How to Use this Document – Focus Areas
Since the guidelines are divided into three categories or “Focus Areas” depending on project location and/or type, each project must address all guidelines in the Focus Area that applies to it. The general idea of each of the Focus Areas is as follows:
1.   Town Center. Forest Grove began as a small farming community with a small downtown and a quality educational institution (now Pacific University) as its nucleus. Since the community’s inception, the town center has been important and still maintains much of its turn of the century charm with numerous intact historic buildings. New development in the town center should reinforce the small town atmosphere and the positive qualities of the historic architecture.
2.   Commercial Corridor. Forest Grove has commercial zoned land running along the Pacific Avenue/ 19th Avenue couplet through town. As the primary east-west travel route through town, the character of development along this corridor has a dramatic impact on the perception of the community. New development should ensure the functionality and improve the visual quality of the corridor.
3.   Multi-unit Residential. Forest Grove has several areas designated for moderate to high density residential development. New development should be compatible with surrounding residential neighborhood and create a safe and functional living environment for residents.
4.   Historic Districts and Landmarks. Retention and restoration of significant architectural features, appropriate use of materials, and sensitive new design help preserve and improve the integrity of individual buildings, and the district as a whole. In this regard, the following collective actions help ensure long-term historic district success.
∙    Maintain the architectural design, pattern, and details of the original construction and site.
∙    Maintain the original building materials and use original construction methods.
∙    Administer new construction that’s historically representative of the structure or the district.
Each Focus Area guidelines section is subdivided into four categories:
1) Site
2) Building
3) Lighting
4) Signs
Each of these categories in turn includes:
1) Specific guidelines
2) Descriptive statements
3) Examples of recommended and not recommended types of development.
How to Use this Document – Approval Criteria
In addition to meeting the specific guidelines within each focus area, all development must meet a list of five approval criteria. The purpose of the approval criteria is to ensure that, when combined, all the individual elements of a proposed development result in a high quality project that emphasizes the unique characteristics of Forest Grove. The premise is that “the whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.” The approval criteria are as follows:
   1.   Complement Existing Architecture. New development shall be consistent with the quality and character of existing architecture in the community.
   2.   Compatible multi-unit housing and mixed-use areas. New development shall be compatible with other types of uses and provide a safe pedestrian environment for residents.
   3.   Dramatic landscape statements. New development shall protect important trees and include dramatic landscape treatments.
   4.   Sensitivity to the natural environment. New development shall enhance natural resources and incorporate them into the site plan for the enjoyment of residents.
   5.   Well-designed streetscapes. New development shall establish a template for on-site and public improvements to ensure consistency with City standards.