View LandWatch's written comments in support of Bend's 2016 UGB Proposal

The City Council and County Commissioners heard public testimony on the 2016 Urban Growth Boundary proposal on Thursday, August 25th, 2016.

You can access LandWatch's written comments here.

You can submit written comments to the record until Monday, August 29th at 5pm by emailing senior planner Damian Syrnyk at dsyrnyk@bendoregon.gov.

Hundreds show up to give feedback on proposed UGB

Plan sets guidelines for Bend’s urban growth

By Marina Starleaf Riker / The Bulletin 

Published Aug 26, 2016 at 12:05AM

After listening to dozens of Bend residents give feedback on the city’s plan to expand its urban growth boundary, Bend city councilors are working toward approving the plan. 

Hundreds showed up to a joint public hearing before the Bend City Council and the Deschutes County Commission that started Thursday afternoon and lasted nearly seven hours. The hearing gave the public a chance to comment on the plan to expand Bend’s proposed urban growth boundary, which is the line that divides the city from land governed by a county’s rural standards. 

At this point, the Bend City Council plans to take the first step to approve the plan — after making some minor tweaks — at its next meeting Sept. 7. 

The 2,300-acre expansion calls for Bend to grow not only out, but also up. The plan, which has cost the city about $2 million in planning so far, intends to accommodate population growth through 2028 by allowing for more than 17,000 homes and room for the equivalent of more than 21,000 jobs. Of those, more than 70 percent of homes and about 68 percent of the jobs are planned to be located within Bend’s current city limits. 

“Growing is not a choice in the state of Oregon,” said Bend City Councilor Casey Roats. “We don’t get to choose to grow or choose not to grow.” 

To annex county land, the city must prove to the state that it has used the space inside the current urban growth boundary efficiently. Right now, city and county officials are working on a new proposal after the state rejected a plan in 2010, saying it was unjustifiably large. 

On Thursday, many people spoke in support of the plan, which aims to increase housing diversity and access to affordable homes. While many property owners — particularly those with county land that would be annexed by the city — agreed with the changes in the proposal, dozens spoke against it, saying city planners were out of touch with how longtime Bend residents want their city to look in the future. 

Norm Andros lives in River Canyon Estates, a luxury home development in southwest Bend. He was among several Bend residents who worried increased urbanization would take away from Bend’s small-town feel. Bend is a desirable place to live because of the fact it’s small, Andros said. 

“We’re selling our souls to achieve an outcome that may not be desirable,” Andros said. “Do you want to live in a four-story apartment over a business downtown?” 

Meanwhile, other people voiced concerns about whether some areas being annexed would have adequate infrastructure to support high-density developments. Some areas are barely developed, such as swatches of land in the south part of Bend that lack adequate sewers and have crumbling roads. 

“I have no city infrastructure in my neighborhood, but three blocks down, you want to put high-density housing,” said Duane Oakes, who lives in south Bend. “You want to put high-density residential in my neighborhood that doesn’t even have sewer.” 

Bill Galaway, head of the Southeast Bend Neighborhood Association, asked whether the City Council planned to allocate money to pay for necessary road repairs on China Hat and Parrell roads before it allows for more development. 

Yet Bend could still be years out from seeing the impacts from the plan on the ground, said Brian Rankin, a city of Bend planner overseeing the expansion. The plan calls for more complete neighborhoods, which offer access to businesses such as grocery stores and workplaces, as well as making communities more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. 

If there aren’t any hiccups, the earliest the plan could get approval from the state would be sometime this winter, Rankin said. Then, property owners can submit plans to the city if they decide to redevelop their properties, a planning process that could take up to a year, he said. 

At that point, the city can annex new land that’s coming inside the boundary, or approve new developments inside the current city limits, Rankin said. But even after the city’s approval, it could take years for the developments to be completed, he said. 

The next step for the proposal — about 1,600 pages of material — is to get approval from the Bend City Council and County Commission before it’s sent to the state. This could occur within the next couple months, or it could take longer depending on whether the officials want to make changes to the plan after hearing residents’ concerns. 

The plan for the new urban growth boundary comes after the state in 2010 turned down a proposal that asked for an 8,000-acre expansion — about 6,000 acres larger than the current plan asks for. The city spent about $500,000 planning that proposal, for which it first sought state approval in 2007, said Rankin. 

After the state denied the proposal, the city started working on the current one. Since 2014, Bend has allocated $2.7 million to pay for the planning including hiring a consulting firm and three citizen committees, Rankin said. Since 2014, the city has held more than 50 meetings about the plan, many of which allowed for public input. 

“If you do some simple math, you’ll see that we are spending millions in planning, for what will result in billions in private investment,” said Rankin. “What’s the benefit of planning? The benefit of planning is if you get it right, it increases the value of the community as a whole.”