The Promise of Growing Pains
The process of revising Bend's Urban Growth Boundary expansion proposal has been slow, but as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. And it is starting to look like that will be the case. While there's no way around the fact that planning for future growth is essentially a big guessing game, the recently-approved UGB scenario gives us hope that the steering committee has its priorities straight and its predictions dialed in.
As much as some of our letter writers may object, Bend is growing and will likely continue to grow at a rate outpacing the rest of the state for the foreseeable future. The State has made clear that the City cannot simply stretch its arms and push out indefinitely into the surrounding rural and forested areas. Bend residents have also stated, in a survey distributed by the City, that their top priority in the UGB-expansion process is "a quality natural environment."
And the UGB steering committee listened. By giving their stamp of approval to Scenario 2.1—which favors expansion on the southeast side of town, while limiting further development on the wildfire-prone west side—the committee demonstrated foresight and a vision of Bend's future that aligns more closely with the day-to-day realities and hopes of the city's residents.
The scenario was one of three approved by the committee for further evaluation in June. They assessed each scenario based on factors identified by the State: "efficient accommodation of identified land needs; orderly and economic provision of public facilities and services; comparative environmental, social, economic, and energy consequences; and compatibility of proposed urban uses with nearby agricultural and forest activities occurring on farm and forest land outside the UGB."
The steering committee's decision is not only right on fire safety, it's also right on density and diversity of housing types. It's a step away from Bend, the resort town, and a leap in the direction of Bend, the thriving small city.
As the folks at Central Oregon LandWatch, who also favored scenario 2.1 point out, the alternative to this scenario could have meant increased development in wildlife habitat and twice as many houses west of town. Scenario 2.1 not only prevents more homeowners from being vulnerable to wildfire and protects sensitive wildlife, it also embraces efficiency measures to help Bend grow up rather than out and encourages the development of diverse, multimodal-transportation options and a range of housing options to meet the needs of Bend residents on all ends of the income spectrum.
Of course, the steering committee doesn't have the final word, and time will tell if this scenario meets with the State's approval. But it's encouraging to see that the committee is taking to heart the concerns expressed by Bendites and moving forward with a solution that could help preserve the quality of life unique to this place.
Bend has been going through quite a growth spurt over the past decade, but it feels like the city is starting to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up and for this the steering committee deserves a glass slipper. It's something we can all be proud of.