(October 12, 2016) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2016 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
Above: Webcylery in Bend, Oregon.
(Nov. 11, 2010) With last week’s LCDC Chair John VanLandingham’s final order against the City of Bend’s UGB proposal, not allowing Bend to grow the way it wants to, along with years of DLCD meetings with the City of Bend, the outsider asks of Bend still exhibits the three common metrics for urban economic health —
Urban economists refer to three metrics for urban economic health, as reviewed by Ed Glaeser and Joshua Gottleib of Harvard, “Urban Resurgence and the Consumer City.” These metrics are population growth, income growth, and rising productivity.
In respect to growth controls, the urban economist asks whether or not economic health is adversely impacted by excessive growth controls.
As I’ve report below and in previous posts (some are consolidated below; other remain on the front page), Bend’s housing crisis was a result of high demand due to amenities, along with the urban growth boundary (UGB) rationing land.
The failure of the Bend UGB to expand was a result of the DLCD not approving it, despite public support, after the Bend City Council approved it in January, 2009. According to Brian Shetterly, Bend’s Long Range Planner, the UGB expansion process began five years ago, and cost the City 4 million dollars, in part due to delays from DLCD.
Meanwhile, unemployment has reached 15% in Bend, primarily construction workers. Therefore, the productivity metric has decreased, due to the DLCD stalling the UGB expansion process.
Furthermore, income growth has stalled, as construction workers who can’t find work are either unemployed or in minimum wage positions. Displaced public employees find minimum wage work, as City and County budgets have been slashed.
Despite hard times, people are still moving to Bend in 2010.
However, despite all of this, people are still moving to Bend due to its amenities and buying foreclosed properties. Bend’s high quality of life is a direct result of the City’s pro-growth talented urban planners, who have created a city based with attractive natural amenities, and diverse housing and employment opportunities.
Cities who invest in amenities help lure new residents and entrepreneurs, as demonstrated by numerous researchers, most recently by Dr. Albert Saiz of the Wharton School of Real Estate, and Dr. Gerald Carlino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Read: “For Modern Urban Growth, Don’t Forget the Ballpark and River Walk.” Indeed, Bend’s riverwalk, the Old Mill District, and revitalized provide a center of recreation for local residents and visitors.
In addition, Bend and Deschusets County planners have allowed rapid growth – 41% in new housing units in Deschusets County from 2000-2008 (data from Bill Bishop), one of the fastest growing counties in the last decade. They also do not have partial restrictions on big box stores, unlike their west coast competitors Ashland, Mammoth Lakes, Lake Tahoe, Santa Fe (NM), and Flagstaff (among other outdoors/tourism/retirement towns).
Despite 15% unemployment, Bend school enrollment surged for the 2010-2011 year (Bend Bulletin, Sept. 23, 2010). There are several hundred more students than the district expected. School officials state this may be due to new businesses hiring, although stagnant 15% unemployment every month does not support this claim.
Remarkably, many of the students are even from out of state. Superintendent Ron Wilkinson thinks this could be a good sign that Bend is climbing out of the recession.
Despite High Demand, Productivity Could remain Flat.
Returning to Ed Glaser and Josh Gottleib at Harvard, they write that while income growth indicates productivity, and housing price growth reflects one’s willingness to pay for amenities, and while population growth reflects popular demand to live in a place …
Yet not one of these alone implies success. Even though people are still moving to Bend, productivity has stalled, and housing has crashed. All three factors must be present for urban health and long term economic growth.
Of course, Bend City planners understand the need to expand the UGB, to allow increased economic growth, such as Facebook, and at Juniper Ridge, as I discuss below. Yet the DCLD order, unless appealed by the City, could stall economic growth, with less land available for new homes and businesses.
To assess the detrimental effects of the Nov. 2, 2010 DLCD decision, one would have to assess the current land available for housing and economic growth. According to Bend Long Range Planner Brian Shetterly, the current UGB will only accommodate 10 years of growth, not 20 as required by state law: (Nov. 8, 2010: Daily Journal of Commerce).
10 years is not very much time. Landowners will bank land (ration land) for that time, and sell it for higher amounts to contractors and entrepreneurs. Contractors want to stay in business, and they will save land for after that 10 year period.
That’s why increasing the UGB is essential to keep real estate prices down, and for encouraging economic growth.
Since I am not a member of the print media, I do not know if the City plans to sue DLCD or modify their plans (as they suggested on Oct. 6, 2010). However whatever they do, it will add yet another year or two to the process of getting permission to grow from DLCD. Meanwhile, without a new urban growth boundary, contractors will continue to bank land and limit new construction, in order to stay in business.
DLCD Officials Have Distant Viewpoints from the Willamette Valley
LCDC Chair John VanLandingham and DLCD Director Richard Whitman are operating from the Willamette Valley. Unlike the City of Bend planners, they do not see that Bend has plenty of room to expand. It’s surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of high desert Ponderosa-Juniper-Sagebrush scrub, with very little agriculutral or timber value (very similar to Reno and Vegas, who have no UGB’s, and plenty of high desert agricultural land requiring irrigation).
Theoretically, in terms of available land, there’s no reason why Bend couldn’t grow to 2 million people, however, there are many externalizes for this (i.e. the need for a freeway for commerce, air pollution, and perhaps insufficient water).
I was permanently banned from an anti-growth Bend Real Estate discussion forum a few months ago, by dropping the 2 million figure. Note – that’s the size of Vegas. I only mentioned this to prove an academic and economic point – there’s plenty of open land. As suggested elsewhere on this blog, I do not favor sprawl. Instead, I favor diffusion of large cities to smaller areas of a few hundred thousand – perhaps 700,000 maximum, the size of the Albuquerque metro, and that’s perfect.
Nevertheless, if you cap growth, you will stall economic growth and cause persistent unemployment. It costs thousands of dollars to relocate, and contractors don’t suddenly move away when the UGB isn’t approved. Therefore, those of us with an “environmental ethic” should set an example for everyone else, and colonize places like Bend, Redmond (OR), Ashland, and Durango – transforming them into centers of entrepreneurship.
The Recent Oregon Governor Elections (Nov. 2010): Pro-Smart Growth John Kitzhaber Narrowly Won over Pro-Property Rights Chris Dudley
Kitzhaber barely won, only by a few thousand votes. The sorrow I experienced, even as a non-resident of Oregon who loves it there, reminded me of when Bush defeated Kerry in 2004 (except, in this 2010 Oregon election, I favored Republican Dudley instead of Democrat Kerry).
Oregon State government is famous for its behind the scenes decision making over natural resources and land use. Public officials who are not elected have tremendous power influencing land use decisions. DLCD Director Richard Whitman, along with LCDC Chair John VanLandingham and LCDC member Bruce McPherson, favor high density smart growth, that most in Bend oppose.
Many were hoping that Chris Dudley would win as Governor, and then remove Whitman and the LCDC commissioners from office. Although Whitman as of January, 2011 now has an interim appointment as Kitzhaber’s natural resource chief, it appears that he will return as Director of DLCD. Unfortunately, pro-smart growth candidate Governor Kitzhaber won the election.
Bend – the Poster Child of the State v. the City in Statewide Growth Management
Bend is the poster child for what happens when restrictive statewide officials are overzealous, in enforcing somewhat arbitrary growth management laws, that are to some extent open to interpretation. Fortunately, most states do not have statewide growth management acts, and it’s up to individual cities to decide how to manage growth (such as markets similar to Bend in the west: Reno, Vegas, and many cities in Colorado).
Bend’s ideals to some extent clash with the Willamette Valley, but are consistent with many politically moderate markets in the Rocky Mountain west: Reno, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Durango and many places in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
As an independent, places of moderate political views are consistent with my values, and I strongly support the City of Bend, their planners, and City Council, and their citizens for their civic engagement and hard work – creating the West’s #1 Intermountain tourist destination. Bend City Council photos: http://www.ci.bend.or.us/city_hall/city_council_members/
Urban Planners and Architects will Love Visiting Bend
If you’re in the planning or architecture fields, be sure to visit Bend next time you come to the Rockies or the West Coast. My wordpress search engine terms reveal that at least 25% are students or professionals in planning and related fields. I think you’ll share the same enthusiasm as I did when visiting. Here are some one way driving distances: From: http://travelmath.com
San Francisco to Bend:493
Reno-Tahoe to Bend: 407
Ashland to Bend (Ashland is another very nice, well managed City in Oregon. Also check Ashland for their Shakespeare festival, mountain bike and running trails, low traffic flow, Southern Oregon University, hippies and hipsters, and relaxed atmosphere.): 187
Portland to Bend: 162
Seattle to Bend: 327
Jackson Hole, WY to Bend: 686, although with no traffic
Salt Lake City to Bend: 655, although with no traffic
Controversial Anti-Growth Special Interest Groups Opposed Bend Urban Growth Boundary Expansion
I’m not affiliated with any special interest groups (my antitheses on the UGB issue, by the way, appears to be the group: “Central Oregon Land Watch,” who I’m sure reads this blog and vice versa, and I see that we compete for google ratings on Bend and the Urban Growth Boundary.
(By the way, who pays Central Oregon Land Watch? Similarly, who pays Cato, Heritage, and Reason to write their blogs on smart growth and urban growth boundaries? What happened for writing for the sake of writing? Anyway, I digress. I don’t like the concept of special interest groups; what’s the point of begging people for money to go Sue the State of Oregon over what developers do with their private property? Have we forgotten the definition of private property under the Constitution?).
And whatever happened to the ideals of job growth and affordable housing? From this 2008 U-Tube video, the City of Bend planners understand land use economics – that increasing the urban growth boundary brings land prices down, decreasing the cost of housing. In addition, more land allows businesses opportunities to expand, and provide more jobs for the region. This video is from 2008, and what ashame that organizations such as COLW and Richard Whitman at DLCD have stalled the Bend UGB expansion:
The people of Oregon would have been best served to have elected Moderate Republican Chris Dudley for Governor in Nov. 2010, as that could increase the chances that anti-growth / anti-construction / anti-natural gas Richard Whitman (and also Louise Solliday) may be relieved of their duties.
We can’t have everything preserved out West when unemployment rates are in the double digits, just because the Democrats refuse to sell timber, expand urban growth boundaries, and approve natural gas pipelines.
Destination Resorts Can Be Ecologically Friendly
Destination resorts, such as Sunriver near Bend, bring rich retirees and their money from California, increasing sales revenues for the shopkeepers at the Old Mill District in Bend. Building more destination resorts will decrease unemployment in Deschusets and neighborhing high desert, high amenity counties.
When the topsoil is preserved during construction, and the native trees are not cut down, as with the Ponderosa Pines are at Sunriver, then eagles fly overhead, and deer and elk graze native grasses under the trees.
Just hire a landscaping guy like me, and I’ll build you a master planned golf course with native plants. Or, even better than that, look at the photos of the new NW Crossing development in Bend, at this link on my blog. They’re retained all the old growth Ponderosa Pines, and have even curved the sidewalks around the trees. It’s incredible.
Incredible Poverty Rates due to Oregon Timbering Restrictions
The Democrats are one-sided and unwilling to compromise on the environment. 23 years of Democrat rule in the Governor’s mansion in Oregon is long enough, and now it will become 27 with Kitzhaber’s election. 10% – 15%+ unemployment in Oregon timber towns due to logging restrictions is just as bad as very poor counties in Arizona and New Mexico.
Click here for the national poverty map in rural counties nationwide. What an embarrassment to have groups such as Central Oregon Land Watch occupying real estate in the City of Bend, in the middle of this UGB and Resort debate.
(Note from the map: A major reason Deschusets County does well is because of RICH RETIREES and TOURISTS from Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake, and California. If NOT for these folks, then Bend would have close to the same poverty rate as the rest of Oregon. In fact, the major reason that Bend, in particular, gets high rankings for tourism and retirement, is due to its recruitment of pro-business / pro-growth City Planners and City Managers.)
In the Fall of 2010, I originally posted a variety of City memos and newspaper articles about the UGB Expansion –
City of Bend
MEETING DATE: October 6, 2010
SUBJECT: Work Session – Oregon DLCD Draft Order
Bend UGB Expansion
STAFF MEMBER: Damian Syrnyk, Senior Planner
DEPARTMENT: Community Development
Public Hearing Date:
Ordinance 1st Reading Date
Ordinance 2nd Reading Date
Resolution (role call vote required)
Consent Agenda A (adopted by motion)
Consent Agenda B (roll call vote required)
Not applicable (X)
STAFF RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends the City Council receive a report on Staff’s review of a draft remand order on the Bend UGB Expansion.
Project/issue relates to:
Council Goals and Priorities Bend 2030 Vision Not Applicable
ISSUE / COUNCIL DECISION & DISCUSSION POINTS: Staff will provide City Council with
a status report on a draft remand order from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation
and Development (DLCD) on the Bend UGB expansion. The Department issued a draft
order to the City and the appellants of the Department’s original decision on September 20,
2010. The Department Director, Richard Whitman, provided all the parties with two weeks
within which to review the draft order for clarity and to correct factual errors. Director
Whitman did not solicit new or additional argument on the issues.
This report to the City Council will cover staff’s process for reviewing the draft order, including some discussion of issues where Staff believes the draft order does not accurately reflect the decision of the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). After receiving comments on
the draft order, staff expects DLCD to issue a final remand order within a few weeks.
After that final order is issued, staff will provide another update to the Council, along with a proposed strategy for completing the remand process.
BACKGROUND: The City Council adopted the UGB expansion on January 5, 2009. This action included adoption of Ordinances NS 2112 and 2113 to amend the Bend Area General Plan and the Bend Development Code, respectively. The Council also adopted the city’s
water and sewer public facility plans through Ordinance NS 2111 on that same date. DLCD issued a Director’s Report on January 8, 2010, in which the Department remanded the city’s decision on the UGB expansion. The City and eight (8) other appellants filed appeals of this decision to LCDC in late January, 2010.
On February 25, 2010, DLCD issued a new report to LCDC and the appellants that narrowed the issues on appeal before the commission. The City provided written exceptions to this report on March 8, 2010. LCDC held four (4) days of hearings on the Bend UGB expansion in March, April, and May of this year. Three of these days of hearing were held here in Bend.
CURRENT YEAR BUDGET IMPACTS IDENTIFIED BY DEPARTMENT: The Long Range Planning budget includes funding for the staff work on this project, as well as funding for outside legal representation to assist the City Attorneys. This funding is included in the Community Development Department budget for the 2009-2011 Biennium.
FINANCIAL PERSPECTIVE & RECOMMENDATION:
Reviewed by: Sharon Wojda Date: September 29, 2010
Long Range Planning’s legal budget for FY 2010-11 is $45,000. Should legal costs exceed this amount, future budget adjustments will be necessary.
LEGAL REVIEW & RECOMMENDATION:
Reviewed by: Gary Firestone Date: September 30, 2010
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT PROCESS: The community involvement process on the UGB expansion was extensive. Between April 2007, and November 2008, the city and county held over 60 public meetings on the UGB expansion. These meetings included public works sessions, hearings, open houses, and updates to the City Council and Board of County Commissioners.
Sunriver Lodge (Sunriver is a Destination Resort):
A few more Bend links showing they’re #1:
Bend just named as a great place to retire:
Bend #7 out of Top 40 Small Towns to Do Business, Forbes:
I copied the rankings from Forbes’ magazine slide show –
From Forbes Magazine 9/15/2010
1. Sioux Falls SD
2. Iowa City IA
3. Manhattan KS
4. Bismarck ND
5. Logan UT
6. Auburn AL
7. BEND OREGON
8. Colombia MO
9. Fargo ND
10. Morgantown WV
11. Rapid City SD
12. Lafayette ND
13. Waterloo IA
14. Sioux City IA
15. Dubuqyue IA
16. Blommington IN
17. Ames IA
18. Charlottesville VA
19. CORVALLIS OREGON
20. Lawrence KS
21. St. George UT
22. Santa Fe NM
23. Greenville NC
24. Billings MOT
25. Athens GA
26. Las Cruces NM
27. Blacksberg VA
28. Harrisburg VA
29. Tuscaloosa AL
30. Coure De’ Lene Idaho (Spelling)
31. Grand Junction CO
32. Bowling Greene KY
33. Rochester MN
34. Johnson City TN
35. Columbus IN
36. Abilene TX
37. Bloomington IL
38. Ithaca NY
39. Jellisfot MO (Spelling)
Above: Roundabout at Bond and Reed Market, looking West.
UPDATE* For a recent interview with Richard Whitman in the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce, and also with Bend long range planning manager Brian Shetterly, click here.
Why Bend Wants to Expand its UGB (Urban Growth Boundary)
The City of Bend, its Council, and its residents, want to expand its urban growth boundary by roughly 8,000 acres (only about 10 square miles). The City has spent 4 million dollars over five years preparing population statistics and other studies to justify the need for expansion to the State, according to Bend long range planning manager Brian Shetterly at the link above in the Daily J. of Commerce.
However, state Land Chief Richard Whitman and the LCDC (Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission) Commisioners have said no several times, including Oregon Land Commissioner Greg McPherson.
Truth be told, construction jobs and perpetual growth are the backbone of small Retirement/Tourist/ College towns such as Bend, Bozeman, Boise, Boulder, Durango, Santa Fe, Eugene, and Flagstaff. Otherwise, unemployment and METH take over, with irreversible consequences, like you see in Flagstaff, AZ and the Willamette Valley (especially Eugene and Medford in Oregon).
Mr. McPherson doesn’t live in Bend, and neither does Richard Whitman (they live in Lake Oswego and Portland, respectively). And, Mr. McPherson and the other members of the commission aren’t even paid.
The irony is that the commissioners are volunteer positions (except for Director Richard Whitman). Therefore, they may or may not have the appropriate background in land use economics — to make critical decisions regarding urban growth boundaries and population growth.
Do you think that members of this volunteer commission should be required to have some basic training in the economics of land use and natural resources? At the very least, a degree in urban planning, urban geography, or natural resource economics?
Do they have the appropriate technical background to advise City manager Eric King, the City manager, and their City planners (all of whom likely have bachelors or masters’ in urban planning, geography, landscape architecture, or related fields) what to do with their own incorporated municipality?
And, why does Mr. McPherson in his editorial (re-printed below) feel that he should dictate that the working people in Bend have Smart Growth as their eternal guiding principle for future generations?
Oregon and Seattle: Smart Growth Capitals of the West Coast
Certainly, Oregon (and also Seattle) are perhaps the two best places to follow, and see how long “smart growth” and “urban growth boundaries” survive as the latest, but not the last, trends, in Urban Planning.
They are heavily controlled states, and as the Bend Bulletin states below, the residents and City of Bend do not want the input of government planners in the Willamette Valley (that’s Western Oregon where the Capital, Salem, is located).
Thanks to Oregon’s heavy regulations on just about everything (construction, timber, mining, farming, fishing, etc.), the unemployment situation is Bend, Eugene, Medford, and Grants Pass is even worse than in Flagstaff, Prescott, and Santa Fe in the poverty stricken Southwestern US.
That should be a wake up call to the State of Oregon and its various agencies that regulate economic growth and environmental policy. So far, “out west,” the only “mountain towns” that have positive growth and low unemployment, are, as usual, the more economically free market states of Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado.
Oregon, however, with its high taxes on high earners and high regulations on construction, may never recover below 12% unemployment, and will have problems recruiting new businesses. Recently, Chief Executive Magazine conducted a (non-scientific) study of 600 CEO’s nationwide for the best states to do business. Oregon dropped 14 points from 2009-2010, dropping from 24 to 38. That’s a greater drop than any other state.
New England, Rocky Mountain States, Texas, and the Carolinas: Less Unemployment, Less Land Use Restrictions, than Oregon
Even left-leaning Syracuse and Ithaca have 6% unemployment, so Republicans cannot blame the Democrats for being anti-business. Perhaps New York does better since there’s no statewide Growth Management act with urban growth boundaries, unlike Oregon. Burlington, VT, also Democrat, has 5.5% unemployment; and both Durango, CO and Asheville, NC have just 6% (both are Democratic leaning).
I guess New Englanders are Liberal-Libertarian when it comes to land use, gun control, and gay rights. That’s very different from near Socialists on the West Coast who ban gun rights, ban gay marriage, and require smart growth. New Hampshire was ranked as one of the top three highest Libertarian states in the nation.
Indeed, the trend today is for those of us trying to get a life on the West Coast is to head east, to cities with less regulations in Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, Nevada, Texas, and Vermont. Places such as Austin, Asheville, Durango, Vegas, and Raleigh-Durham are “trendy” in their own ways.
Oregon, Washington, and California are now for the retirees!
For their children, the Oregon Trail can now reverse its course (west to east); the Applegate Trail down into Nevada; as all the children of Democrat baby boomers leave to follow our dreams in Nevada, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.
Nevertheless, Bend has a strong entrepreneurial spirit
The May, 2010 Policom Economic vitality study of hundreds of cities ranks Flagstaff, Prescott, Eugene, and Methford embarrassingly low, into the 100’s, with small towns in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana in the single to double digits, with pro-growth Durango (with no urban growth boundary) at Number 3, and Bend in the 40’s, reflecting their rapid expansion in the last decade.
Durango and Bend are both very progressive in welcoming new business growth and new residents. Compare these towns to anti-growth cities in Arizona, Oregon, and California, where there are excessive regulations on new entrepreneurs. Young singles such as myself will never be able to own land, start farms, or small businesses, in these cities. Recall, here’s the Planning Penalty Map on home ownership, from Randall O’Toole.
These articles From The Bend Bulletin. First, Greg McPherson telling Bend what it should do, when it’s absolutely none of his business:
Published: June 05. 2010 4:00AM PST
Editor’s note : This piece, which appeared on Wednesday, accompanies the editorial below.
Urban Growth Boundaries are a great Oregon innovation — one of the ways the state earned its reputation for environmental leadership. UGBs separate town from country, farm from shopping mall, and forest from subdivision. They also help ensure that cities carefully consider how to grow, to keep costs down while providing land for needed jobs and housing.
The city of Bend established its UGB in 1981. In 2009, the city expanded the Bend UGB by 8,462 acres, an increase of about 40 percent. However, the expansion cannot go forward without approval by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission.
Recently, the LCDC concluded its review of the Bend UGB expansion. We labored through reams of written analysis and finished four days of argument by the city and the many other parties who appealed the decision on no fewer than 62 issues.
We learned a lot about Bend’s dramatic population growth over recent decades. It was easy to understand the attraction of the area on the bright, sunny March and May days when LCDC met in Bend.
We learned about the hot market for single-family homes through most of the last decade and the slump that hit as the national housing bubble burst. These market forces have left Bend with a surplus of high-end homes and a shortage of the affordable housing needed for the service workers who make up much of the local work force.
Some presenters told LCDC that Bend is different from other Oregon communities and should be allowed to accommodate the lifestyles so attractive to newcomers. They argued for more flexible interpretations of state rules for UGB expansions.
There is no question that Central Oregon is a special place. A scenic backdrop of snowy peaks, access to outdoor recreation and sophisticated consumer offerings combine to give it tremendous appeal. Livability clearly is a major driver of Bend’s economy.
At the same time, the requirements of Oregon’s statewide planning program can help Bend become an even better place to live. Infill of vacant space inside the existing UGB will cost residents less for new roads, sewers and water lines. More compact development will improve access to public transportation. Large undeveloped spaces will be preserved for the educational and industrial uses that enhance economic opportunity. Lower-cost public services will make housing more affordable. A reduction in the average vehicle miles traveled per resident will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Oregon’s statewide planning goals promote all these aims and more.
In any planning process, it’s important to embrace the opportunity for positive change. In 30 years, Bend should not look like a larger version of just what it is now. It should adapt to a changing economy and evolving lifestyles. The decision on the size and location of its UGB is an important part of this process.
Recently, LCDC sent the expansion of Bend’s UGB back to the city for it to reconsider some aspects of its decision and to strengthen the city’s case supporting it. In that process, the city will need to reconsider some of its assumptions about how it will grow and choices about where that growth will occur.
Fortunately, the city has very skilled leaders and planning professionals. By applying their talents to the next phase of the work on the UGB expansion, they can make Bend an even greater community than it is today.
Greg Macpherson, of Lake Oswego, is a member of the Land Conservation and Development Commission.
Published: June 05. 2010 4:00AM PST, The Bend Bulletin Editorial Staff
If you thought Oregon’s land use laws provided for a sober and objective analysis of cities’ plans for growth, check out Greg Macpherson’s In My View piece, “Bend should embrace ‘positive change’ and develop more densely.” It appeared originally Wednesday, but we’ve decided to run it again. Why? Because the only thing better than being patronized once by a powerful state official is being patronized twice.
Macpherson serves on the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), an appointed board that oversees the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). The DLCD has reviewed Bend’s proposal to expand its urban growth boundary and found it wanting. In a nutshell, the DLCD wants Bend to develop much more densely than the city’s residents and elected officials do, the ideal apparently being a miniature version of Portland bounded by mile after mile of forest and desert.
The city appealed the DLCD’s decision to Macpherson’s panel, which in turn sent the expansion proposal back to Bend for “improvement.” The city will have to take its work back to the panel at least once, and possibly numerous times. You’d think, therefore, that LCDC members would maintain a respectful silence, if for no other reason than to maintain the appearance of objectivity.
But not Macpherson. Once a politician, always a politician. The former representative from tony Lake Oswego ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2008. Gov. Kulongoski subsequently appointed him to the LCDC, and from that perch Macpherson now lectures the benighted citizens of Bend about the benefits of land-use restrictions that will make their housing more affordable, their carbon footprints more dainty, their infrastructure cheaper and public transportation more workable.
Problem is, this would require Bend to develop in a way that most people who live here oppose, which is why their elected representatives on city council approved the UGB expansion they did. Macpherson glibly dismisses the desires of Bend residents by spouting pablum: “In any planning process it’s important to embrace the opportunity for positive change.”
A graduate of Georgetown University’s law school and partner at the prestigious Stoel Rives law firm, Macpherson is no dummy. So he must have suspected that his op-ed piece, at once patronizing and insulting, would infuriate officials and councilors in Bend (as it has). And he should have realized that it would practically confirm what many people on the east side of the Cascades have said about the state’s land use system for years: that it’s the rigid product of Willamette Valley urbanites who have little interest in the east-side communities it handcuffs so inappropriately.
Why toss aside the modesty an LCDC member should observe in order to deliver a lecture guaranteed to irritate the very people it ostensibly aims to persuade? One possibility is that Macpherson, all evidence to the contrary, is out to lunch. We don’t believe that. It’s far more likely, as Bend Councilor Jeff Eager suspects, that he’s using his land-use post to burnish his ideological résumé. The LCDC is something of a political detour for an ambitious guy like Macpherson, who so recently aspired to be attorney general. Sooner or later, he’s likely to run for statewide office again. And when he does, he can now say he used his tenure on the LCDC to defend the integrity of Oregon’s land use system against an assault by the wayward people of Bend. It’s possible, in other words, that Macpherson’s patronizing little lecture was intended largely to impress future voters in Portland.
We suppose it’s Macpherson’s prerogative to use his LCDC seat as a political platform, but it does call his objectivity into question. Does he really intend to apply the law even-handedly to Bend’s proposal, or is his judgment hopelessly clouded by his apparent desire to score political points? Officials and residents of Bend shouldn’t have to wonder. If Macpherson cares about the integrity of the state’s land use system, he should recuse himself from all future decisions regarding Bend’s UGB.
Published: August 01. 2010 4:00AM PST
Bend’s plan for how and where it wants to grow over the next 20 years is about to undergo some changes.
Within the next couple of weeks, the state is expected to issue its final ruling on the city’s proposed expansion of its urban growth boundary, which is that invisible line that shows where city limits end and where they could one day expand.
City officials are fairly certain that when they see this order and follow its directions, it will result in a pared-down version of its initial 8,462-acre UGB expansion proposal, partially because it will require more dense development inside Bend’s current bounds.
Bend City Manager Eric King said its hard to say exactly how much the UGB will shrink under the state’s ruling until city staff has had a chance to analyze the state’s decision, but he estimated the size could be reduced anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 acres.
“We’re going to go in and kind of make these surgical decisions with the UGB and (state) remand order,” King said. “Our guesstimate is that when we rework all this analysis that it’ll mean a smaller UGB.”
Bend’s UGB has been a contentious, and expensive, issue to resolve over the past several years. Under Oregon law, a city must have a 20-year supply of land for housing and economic development and show a demonstrated need to expand its UGB to meet that need. The last time Bend expanded its UGB was in 1981, when the city’s population was 17,425.
So far, the city has spent an estimated $4 million to create a UGB expansion plan that would eventually be used as a guide to incorporate about 8,500 acres into the city over the coming decades as the population grows. The plan lays out, among other things, how much land will be set aside for industrial purposes, multifamily housing, second homes and parks. It even includes land in the Juniper Ridge development on the northeast side of the city as a possible site for a university.
But officials from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, which must approve all cities’ UGB expansion proposals, have questioned Bend’s reasoning for its expansion. They’ve said the city was trying to include too much land and didn’t resolve issues related to transportation and public works planning, affordable housing, and perhaps more to the point, developing the vacant lots within the current UGB.
City officials, however, took issue with the DLCD’s analysis. In particular, they felt the agency was overreaching its legal bounds under state land use law. The city then filed an appeal with the Land Conservation and Development Commission in an effort to state its case for expansion and clarify any issues that were left murky in the bureaucratic back-and-forth.
That appeal was heard during a series of public hearings in the spring, and the commission decided to send the UGB back to city planners for more work.
While the official order from the commission hasn’t been received yet — that’s what’s expected to show up soon — city officials are reasonably confident they know what needs to be done to receive the state’s blessing to proceed with the city’s UGB expansion based on what came out of the appeals process.
Bend Senior Planner Damian Syrnyk said that once the commission’s ruling is in hand, city planners will be able to plug the changes back into their complex UGB expansion formula. This will then help the city determine a new figure for how much of a land base it believes it will need over the next 20 years to support things like housing, employment and schools.
After that, he said, new maps could be drawn and, before being approved, they would go through a public process similar to the one that occurred when the current UGB expansion proposal was created.
“What we’ll do is go through the process again for evaluating areas of inclusion in the UGB,” Syrnyk said. “That will be a project a lot of people will want to weigh in on because after they see what our acreage figure is, people will want to say why they want to be included or why they should be left alone.”
Syrnyk also noted that the commission’s order will first come in a draft form for the city to make any minor corrections or clarifications to the document, though he said there shouldn’t be any substantive changes made.
City officials have estimated that creating a new UGB proposal could take up to 18 months to complete. There’s also the possibility the commission’s ruling could be appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Both Syrnyk and King said it’s unlikely the city would go this route and would only consider it if they felt there was something in the order that was different than what the commission decided during the appeal hearings earlier this year.
“Unless there are any surprises, we don’t expect to appeal this decision to the Court of Appeals.” King said. “We want to get this done and move on. We have a lot of other things we want to do.”
DLCD Executive Director Richard Whitman, who issued the report telling Bend it needed to do more work on its UGB expansion, agreed with King’s sentiment. Whitman said his staff has been diligent in trying to make sure the decisions made during the appeals hearing are consistent with the final order that is being compiled now.
“There really should not be any surprises here at all,” he said. “I think that we have common ground. We all feel that this has taken a lot of resources for everybody, and it’s been a difficult process. I think that’s universally felt.”
Some of the people who formally challenged Bend’s growth plan — for being too sprawling, for instance — are keeping a close eye on what’s in the state’s final order and, more specifically, how the city responds to it.
Toby Bayard, an active member of the neighborhood association Hunnell United Neighbors, has filed objections to the city’s UGB expansion and has fought to keep her neighborhood out of the expansion area. She said she is “anxiously awaiting” the commission’s final report, and hopes the city takes the direction from the state seriously and applies it thoughtfully to issues like increased density and affordable housing.
“I’d like to believe that they’ve learned their lesson on this thing, I really would,” Bayard said. “I’m just skeptical, but I’m also hopeful that they will do the right thing this time.”
Central Oregon LandWatch Executive Director Erik Kancler, whose agency also filed formal objections to Bend’s UGB expansion, echoed Bayard’s apprehensions but wanted to give the city the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m very hopeful that the city is going to be going in a different direction,” Kancler said. “I would express a fair amount of hope that once we get the final order … that it’s going to be an opportunity to do something reasonable and actually plan something for the future growth of Bend and not just argue over it.”
Nick Grube can be reached at 541-633-2160 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: May 15. 2010 4:00AM PST
A state board that oversees land use decisions in Oregon is sending Bend’s proposal to expand its urban growth boundary back to local planners for more work.
The city’s expansion plan, originally submitted to the Department of Land Conservation and development in April 2009, was rejected by that agency earlier this year. In January, the DLCD found the city failed to adequately plan for growth in compliance with state land use rules.
The city appealed that decision to the agency’s board, known as the Land Conservation and Development Commission.
Since then, the LCDC has found Bend officials have made their case for expansion. But the commission has been critical of the city’s planning for infrastructure, public facilities and transportation, questioned the size and location of the proposed expansion and encouraged local planners to increase building density within the existing UGB.
On Wednesday, after four days of hearings in two different cities over the last month, the commission voted to remand the city’s appeal, but the DLCD has not yet issued a final order.
The agency has until July to hand down the order, which will tell city staffers what work they must do before the expansion proposal can go forward.
Bend City Manager Eric King said local officials are ready for the remand and, after the recent hearings, believe the LCDC isn’t going to tell the city to start over.
“I can say we have gotten pretty good clarity from the agency about what we need to do and, for the most part it’s not a complete redo of the UGB,” King said “It’s more of a matter of having more analysis for the record and clarifying our decisions.”
The city can appeal the remand to the Oregon Court of Appeals, but King said that is an unlikely outcome. He said the lengthy appeal process has seemed like a second-guessing of the city’s analysis and conclusions, rather than a review to confirm the UGB expansion proposal meets state land-use standards.
“I think this occurred because the agency has felt the need to double check our work and, to me, its not entirely clear as to what the purpose is behind that,” King said.
He said he has joined a committee formed by the League of Oregon Cities with the goal of making the UGB expansion process less cumbersome for other cities. “So we’re working on proposals to take to the Legislature for 2011, and the basic concept is, we’ve got to streamline this process and undo some layers of complexity to take it back to the intent of land-use planning.”
State land-use planning rules require cities with a population greater than 25,000 to provide for a 20-year need for housing, employment lands, infrastructure and public utilities, and demonstrate a need for additional land before urban growth boundaries can be expanded. The idea behind the rules is to prevent sprawl and the degradation of rural and farm lands.
Bend City Councilor Jodie Barram, who worked on the UGB expansion proposal as a member of the city’s planning commission, said she expects the remand will require the city to justify its focus on expanding to the northeast.
“I think one of the only real sticking points left … was around suitability — what lands to bring in,” she said.
Commissioners also have encouraged the city to up its planned housing-mix ratio to increase the number of multi-family dwellings versus single-family detached homes.
That work, and additional analysis of future infrastructure, public facilities and transportation needs, is likely to take some time, Barram said.
“I would expect, with the remand coming in July, that we are going to have a good 12 months of work to do,” she said. “I think we’re still going to be a little ways out.”
Cindy Powers can be reached at 541-617-7812 or at email@example.com.
May 15, 2010 4:00 am
A state board that oversees land use decisions in Oregon is sending Bend’s proposal to expand its urban growth boundary back to local planners for more….