Bend UGB Steering Committee Decides to Include Wildfire Risk in Assessment

Planning the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is a public process that will determine what kind of city Bend will become. At the UGB steering committee meeting, Executive Director Paul Dewey advocated for including wildfire risk to potential UGB lands as part of the planning process. Building in areas that are prone to wildfire puts lives at and millions of dollars in firefighting costs at risk.

Instead of expanding into the forest, we should use the available land within the existing city boundary more efficiently, which saves taxpayer money, conserves natural lands, saves water, and provides public health and safety benefits. 

Bend UGB steering committee meets

Members debate city’s future housing needs, other issues

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Mar 20, 2015 at 12:01AM

Apartments, condos, forest-fire risk and the migratory habits of elk are on the minds of city leaders as they prepare to expand Bend’s urban growth boundary.

The process is being overseen by a steering committee composed of the Bend City Council, two planning commissioners and Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone. The committee met for two hours Thursday to approve the groundwork laid by a group of about 60 volunteers. The steering committee’s work was brief compared to the effort behind the proposals they approved, which entailed days of discussions and arguments on everything from population projections to how much parking a condo needs.

The urban growth boundary is the line around a city beyond which new development is heavily restricted. In order for the state to approve an expansion, a city must demonstrate it has made the most of the land available and has a real need to grow.

In 2010, the state rejected the city’s bid to expand its boundary to accommodate growth through 2028, arguing a better plan was needed for redevelopment and the intention to take in 8,000 acres was unjustified.

This time around, the city is working on a plan with a greater emphasis on redeveloping and a smaller expansion, somewhere in the ballpark of 1,000 to 3,000 acres, according to city staff.

The city’s volunteers were divided into three technical advisory committees assigned to respectively study residential needs, employment needs and the boundary. The work of the residential and employment committees was presented together and focused on what areas in the city’s current boundary could be redeveloped.

An area that may see the most redevelopment is the stretch of Third Street just east of downtown. Planning Manager Brian Rankin noted the site is used almost exclusively by businesses, but may be reinvented into a mixed-use neighborhood with apartments.

“You could consider it as extending downtown eastward toward the parkway while creating a more intensive connection to the historic downtown,” Rankin told the steering committee.

One area of dissent within the residential committee concerned the “housing mix,” which is the breakdown of housing types the city will plan for, such as single-family versus apartments.

The city estimated it will need 16,681 new residences between 2008 and 2028. Based on that need, the residential committee called for 55 percent single-family homes, 10 percent single-family attached housing, which often means townhouses, and 35 percent multifamily, which is commonly apartments.

However, after learning that from 2008 to mid-2014, about 83 percent of the 2,912 new residences built were single-family homes, the committee was tasked with determining whether to begin applying its housing mix to all homes built since 2008 or those built since 2014. Starting the count in 2008 would mean the city would plan for more multifamily houses while beginning in 2014 would lead to less. In its meetings, the committee decided to start at 2014.

“What actually happened in the interim doesn’t change the need of the populace,” said Sid Snyder, a member of the residential committee who disagreed with the body’s decision. “We looked at this as a need issue, and what the future need of Bend will be didn’t change just because some single-family homes got built.”

Tom Kemper, another member of the residential committee and executive director of the region’s housing agency, said striving for more multifamily units would be unrealistic.

“Rents aren’t high enough here to jump-start that kind of construction,” Kemper said.

Rankin added that additional apartments may be added above commercial properties, something that isn’t accounted for in the committee’s work so far. City Councilor Victor Chudowsky, chairman of the steering committee, argued “unattainable goals are de-motivating.”

The steering committee voted unanimously to adopt the work of the residential and employment committees, while noting that much work is left to be done and numbers can move. Rankin explained the housing mix is only a goal, and changes to the city’s development code intended to spur multifamily development could have a range of impacts.

The other point of controversy concerned the boundary committee’s work. So far, the group has produced a range of maps examining the 18,000 acres just outside the current boundary. The maps display how advantageous different sites are based on a variety of criteria, such as their topography, proximity to sewers and elk migratory patterns, and fire risk.

The next step is to combine the maps and to see which areas score the highest on the full range of criteria. The boundary committee voted to leave out maps of fire risk from the composite and instead use them “qualitatively.” The reasoning behind this move was that those maps lacked a desired level of precision, though a number of committee members disagreed.

Some city councilors appeared skeptical of this move, including Mayor Jim Clinton, who said, “All the maps are somewhat arbitrary.”

Nonetheless, the steering committee passed the proposal, agreeing to include the fire maps in the discussion but not in the composite map.

The city hopes to complete its work on the proposal and submit it to the state by 2016.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,