CRESWELL – In less than 20 years, Creswell’s population is projected to spike by 45%, but as it stands, it has little room to grow. 

Wetlands have been identified as a significant barrier to properties zoned for residential use, according to City planners and its commission. There are over 100 wetlands in the City’s Urban Growth Boundary alone, and because Creswell uses a “safe harbor” approach to managing wetlands, people cannot build on that land.

As such, City planners and staff are making way for projected growth through an eventual adoption of a city-specific wetlands policy to make the most of the land within the UGB, according to Curtis Thomas, new City planning tech.

The City has secured $35,000 from the Department of Land Conservation and is contracting with Branch Engineering of Springfield to find a pathway for property owners to develop their wetlands – known otherwise as bogs, swamps, or marshes – in which the soil is saturated with water and hydrophytic vegetation. 

The development and adoption of a city-specific wetlands policy is “crucial” to Creswell’s growth, Lauren Zatkos, wetland specialist with the engineering team, noted in the proposal. Creswell’s “safe harbor” approach, Zatkos said, offers minimal flexibility for conflicting uses of land, and can result in communities like Creswell holding large swaths of land that are undesirable to developers. 

The goal of the The Wetland Mitigation Plan is to identify which wetlands to protect, which to restore and which to develop, according to the proposal. 

The firm, whose experience in local projects include the Bald Knob property in Creswell, will be working with the Creswell Planning staff in biweekly meetings to get the job done. 

Branch Engineering will:

• Identify barriers to natural resource conservation, water quality protection, and residential development opportunities.

• Perform an audit of the City’s Riparian and Wetlands Overlay Zone requirements in the Creswell Development Code

• Identify variables that are important to both development and sustainability goals of the City, which may include groundwater protection, flood protection, nutrient and water storage, fish and wildlife habitat, aesthetic and/or educational value, hydrologic connectivity, riparian connectivity and sediment or pollution control.

• Determine existing wetland significance and identify conflicting uses. The ecological significance of each wetland will be bucketed into one of five categories of significance. 

The cost for consultants is not to exceed $25,000 to perform onsite wetlands evaluation, plan development, and policy recommendations regarding wetland conservation, mitigation and development. This will leave $10,000 of the grant for staff to work with the city engineer to further understand how to identify a solution and fund the utility barriers. 

Project funding will be derived from money identified for the Comprehensive Plan Update and covered by the DLCD grant funds, with a projected completion date of Dec. 19.