"Smart Growth" and "New Urbanism" Compared with "Large Lot Zoning" (Tom Lane) [ Home Page – Click Here]

(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

(Updated Jan. 24, 2010) My Case for Large Lots and Wide Streets: Photo Essay

Updating in progress, Dec. 23, 2010, with mistakes.
Above: The High Valley neighborhood a few miles east of Renton, Washington (Seattle metro) features wide streets with properties of several acres. However, many public officials take the opposite approach of High Valley. For example, Richard Whitman, Director of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (DLCD), would like smart growth with infilling, with narrow streets such as these mixed use condos in the Old Mill District in Bend.  However, Bend City officials and residents do not want high density developments like this all over town.  Many want large homes and large lots, such as at Northwest Crossing (below), and the City of Bend’s UGB proposal allocates a portion of the 8,500 additional acres for this purpose.

Bend Oregon: DLCD Director Richard Whitman likes narrow streets in smart growth developments, such as the Old Mill District in Bend.

The Large vs. Small Lot Controversy

Proponents of “smart growth” wish to shorten commute distances with condos and attached townhomes, as shown elsewhere on this blog.  Many communities wish to preserve their large lots in traditional heavily forested neighborhoods.  However, this is difficult, given local and statewide growth management plans for small lots sizes, narrow streets, and upzoning.

What follows is mostly an exploration of the aesthetic elements of traditional versus smart growth neighborhoods.  I am not an expert in the “back door” political decisions that involve grants and possible bribes from statewide organizations to local City Councils, from pro-smart growth agencies such as:

1. DLCD (Department of Land Conservation and Development), Oregon, director Richard M. Whitman and his commissioners, including John VanLandinghtam and Bruce McPherson

2. TGM (Transportation and Growth Management), Oregon

3. ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation)

4. METRO (adjudicates the Portland metro area Urban Growth boundary)

5. PSRC  (Puget Sound Regional Council, adjudicates the Seattle metro area Urban Growth Boundary, and local smart growth initiatives such as Vision 2040)

6. King County Council (adjudicates smart growth projects in King County, Washington (Seattle area) such as the master planned, corporate built and operated neighborhoods “Issaquah Highlands” and “Talus” in Issaquah, Wa.

And, many others nationwide.

Example:  Richard Whitman, but not Bend, wants High Density Smart Growth Over Entire City

While I am no spokesperson for the City of Bend planning department, it’s clear from newspaper articles and from visiting Bend (such as the beautiful neighborhood NW Crossing, my photos at this link), that they don’t want high density smart growth condos over the entire City, including the 8,500 acres where they want to expand in their Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Here’s one view of a spacious wide street through NW Crossing at sunset. Including the street, sidewalks, and grass strips, perhaps the entire width is nearly 90 feet?

Nice wide street in Bend, Oregon at Northwest Crossing.

The outcome of Bend’s possible lawsuit against the state over expanding their UGB could set a precedence for future urban growth boundary decisions in Oregon, and other states with statewide mandates, especially over issues such as upzoning for ugly, towering condos next to Victorian homes (my photos at this link).

In economics, given constant demand, decreasing the supply of something increases its cost.  The same is true for housing and land, as Bill Robie of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors, points out below (following several photos).  With an urban growth boundary, there is less land for urban development, and its value increases., as also explained in Superstar City concept, from Dr. Joe Gyourko of the Wharton School of Real Estate at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, as I summarize here.

Richard Whitman and the DLCD want Bend to increase “upzoning” within existing urban growth boundaries, with ugly, towering high rise condos (my photos at this link) along narrow streets.

Smart Growth Proponents want to Return to the 1920’s “Bungalow Era”

100 years ago, streets were narrow and filled with Victorian bungalow homes on small lots on the grid system, as pictured in Eugene below.  Today, due to concerns about urban sprwal, carbon credits, and global warming, smart growth agencies such as the PSRC in Seattle, the DLCD in Oregon, and numerous special interest organizations want narrow streets on ridiculously small lots.

However, as the flight to the suburbs began after WWII, the booming middle class built larger homes on larger lots, such as tract housing.  Ultimately, this contributed to sprawl, with metro regions extending over hundreds of square miles, and large freeway systems destroying neighborhood character.

Yet today, most people never give a second thought to congestion.  In fact, only one group does: those of us who notice it, because we’re landscape architects, artists, foresters, writers, cyclists, planners, and so on.

However, we are sharply divided amongst ourselves, as some of us wish to establish regional planning authorities to stop sprawl. Others, myself included, recognize that human population growth is inevitable, so we just move to small college towns with natural amenities such as skiing, hiking, and cycling.

This is a free country, and I don’t care if you want to live in a place of 4 million people like Vegas and drive a Hummer to work. I’d never try to pass a law against sprwal in your city, or ban your Hummer.  Likewise, I wouldn’t want someone banning my fuel inefficient 4WD, so I can drive out of town to go mountain biking. Both the City dweller and the rural resident drive tremendous distances for different reasons. Maybe you enjoy the amenities of a big city so much that you don’t care about bad air quality and 2 hour commutes. It’s your personal choice.  It’s a free country.  That’s what America is all about.

Old and New Bungalows Compared

Compare these three photos: 1) a run down, classic old Eugene neighborhood of bungalows build decades ago (just north of the University of Oregon)  2) a new smart growth neighborhood in Ashland, Oregon with similar geometry of bungalows  3) a new smart growth neighborhood in Talent, Oregon (near Ashland).  Note the similarities?  See what Richard Whitman and his commissioners are trying to do in Bend?

Eugene, Oregon neighborhood north of the University with bungalows, narrow streets, and small lots.

Similar to the old Eugene Bungalow style neighborhood above, this new smart growth Ashland neighborhood has narrow streets, garage alleys, and inadequate front yard setbacks in Ashland, Oregon.

Talent, Oregon new neighborhood fulfilling LCDC high density criteria of narrow streets and small lots.

State of Oregon Internal PDF Documents on Narrow Streets

The State of Oregon web site reveals two internal PDF documents with photos of narrow streets, including one signed by former Governor Kitzhaber (just elected again), stating that LCDC wants narrow streets in Oregon cities, even less than 30′ (here’s a link to the second PDF doc.).

Why Wide Streets are Safer

However, narrow streets are dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists, and skateboarders, especially with heavy traffic such as pictured on the street above in Eugene, Oregon.  Smart growth is bad for cycling, since as density increases with more smart growth condos, traffic gets even worse, and cyclists complain or don’t even ride.  Downtown Eugene should be a pleasant place, yet narrow streets, infilling, and high population density cause high traffic.

In contrast, older portions of Ashland, Oregon (before smart growth became popular) offer wide streets safe for pedestrians, skateboarders, and cyclists, such as the second photo below. The third photo near Seattle shows a wide street with large setbacks, perfect for basketball hoops either on the street or in the driveway as shown:

Downtown Eugene could be free of traffic, if not for high population density due to Smart Growth Infilling.

Wide street for cyclists, skateboarders, and pedestrians in Ashland, Oregon. LCDC prefers narrow streets clogged with parked cars.

Wide street in Kent, Washington (near Seattle); lots of room for basketball either in your driveway or even on the street.

Kent, new Woodside neighborhood, features wide streets ideal for skating and biking.

Wide Streets are Safe

Narrow streets such as the photos at Talus below, are not safe, along with their curb extensions, roundabouts, bike lanes, dividers, and so on. Someday, someone will sue a smart growth developer for tripping in the dark over a curb extension, because of a low light ordinance.

I like wide streets, since they give a feeling of openness and community. And, they allow air circulation and more sunshine, and opportunities for passive solar with low sun angles in winter. And, as I mentioned above, they are safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and skateboarders. They also really give you a workout, if you have to walk around to do errands over the lunch break.

Here’s a view from one of the skybridges in Kemper Freeman’s Bellevue Square, in Bellevue, noted for its wide streets and fast moving traffic. 7 lanes below; other streets are 6. There are also wide sidewalks, and the streets are wider and bike friendly, without the need for bike lanes.

Also note the diminished setbacks in smart growth, whereas the sign in Phoenix below indicates that the setback is 17′ minimum. As a designer I can tell you that wide residential streets of at least 50′-66′ and 25 foot setbacks make the best and safest neighborhoods.

Therefore, if one is going to exercise Smart Growth Principles with their design, there are certain safety rules that last forever. A 22 foot wide street at Talus or Issaquah Highlands near Seattle is not safe when it’s choked with parked cars, bikes, skateboarders, and pedestrians. NW Crossing in Bend (pictured above) is safer, because the streets are much wider.

Wide streets around Kemper Freeman's Bellevue Square (near Seattle, Wa.).

Ridiculously narrow street with a divider at Talus, a smart growth development near Seattle; homes cluttered together.

Another ridiculously narrow street at Talus.

Talus, smart growth master planned development in Issaquah near Seattle. Two way street with median, each way measured at only eleven feet. Unsafe for cyclists. Pedestrians use the center median with tables (previous photo) and benches. Very uninviting and not much plant cover.

Seventeen feet wide at Talus. Why not eliminate the sidewalks and grass strips and make it 40 feet wide with curbs?

One way street in Talus. Note a good aspect about smart growth: the cobblestones in the foreground to slow traffic, making it safer for pedestrians.

Fortunately, there are cities such as Phoenix who have minimum setbacks, unlike Issaquah's Talus smart growth above.

Below, more Examples of Nice, Safe, Wide Streets, Great for Cycling, Basketball, Football, Skateboarding, etc. And, even wheelchairs feel safe in the bike lanes in the Phoenix neighborhood of Tramanto. Also featured below are wide streets in Mesa, Arizona, and prestigious, rich Seattle area neighborhoods of Kirkland and Normandy Park. However, many less costly neighborhoods also offer wide streets, such as the new neighborhood below in Bonney Lake, Washington. We also see photos of wide streets in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Ellensburg, Washington.

Even Wheelchairs feel safe in the bike lane along this wide street in Tramanto, a new development in North Phoenix.

Wide boulevard in Mesa, Arizona features median and bike lanes on both sides. Much safer for cycling that narrow streets in smart growth cities.

At dusk, a wide street in Summerlin, in west Las Vegas, Nevada.

Kirkland, Washington wide street.

Kirkland, Washington wide street and roundabout.

Wide street in Kirkland, Washington in winter. Wide streets allow more light exposure with narrow winter sun angles, and consequential opportunities for passive solar energy.

Normandy Park, Washington, "Manhattan Village" district, wth friendly cat.

Normandy Park, Wa. Without sidewalks and street trees, plants come to the edge of the curb. The eye tends to focus in the distance, creating a feeling of spaciousness.

Normandy Park, Wa. and great specimens of Colorado Blue Spruce and weeping white birch.

Wide streets in Bonney Lake, Washington. Homes are cheaper, given this is Eastern Pierce County, home to Tacoma, Wa. King County is more expensive, becuase of Seattle, and the eastside (Bellevue, Kirkland, Sammamish, etc.).

The new Woodlands Village development in West Flagstaff, Arizona features preservation of native Ponderosa Pines, wide streets, bike lanes, and wide sidewalks. Very safe neighborhood for everyone, and one of the most desirable areas of Flagstaff.

Ellensburg, Washington wide street (90 minutes east of Seattle). This up and coming community is in Kittitas County, in the rain shadow of the Cascades, and one of the fastest growing counties in the US (40% increase in new housing units, 2000-2008).

Auburn, Washington wide street with BASKETBALL hoop and the Cascades and Mt. Rainier on an overcast winter day. Smart growth and its narrow streets and no yards PREVENTS basketball and football on traditional wide streets.

Wide streets, large properties, and great views of the Issaquah Alps in one of the neighborhoods in May Valley, east of Renton, Wa. This might be the Sunset Valley Neighborhood, or, the one next to it.

Bend vs. Oregon: Bend Does Not Want Tiny Lots and Narrow Streets All Over Town

Bend and its people do not want what Eugene has.  They also do not want expensive housing, as occurs when the supply of land is limited by urban growth boundaries., as the Central Oregon Association of Realtors explains (from the Bend Bulletin, “Real Estate Expense – City’s plans for growth could set precedents,” May 10, 2009):

“Citing the city’s phenomenal growth over the past decade, groups like the Central Oregon Association of Realtors argued that the city’s land supply had not kept pace. They pushed for the city to bring in as much land as possible, saying that otherwise, scarce land would make new homes too expensive.”

The article continues:

“In early 2007, the city estimated the UGB needed to grow by 3,125 acres to accommodate growth. But that estimate grew as a result of a City Council directive that set a goal of as big an expansion as possible. The final plan included 8,468 acres, which the city said was necessary to provide enough land for new homes, businesses and jobs.”

“In a series of letters through November 2008, however, DLCD said the city was using questionable methodology and bringing in too much land, contrary to land use goals that encourage more compact urban development in order to preserve forest and farmland.”

A similar statement appears in another Bend Bulletin article on Dec. 20, 2009 entitled “State’s first review of Bend growth plan finds fatal flaws.”

“The report questions whether the city needed to grow onto land currently designated agricultural. In fact, the draft documents assert the city could have avoided any expansion at all by employing existing land within the UGB more efficiently, using upzoning and infill to create more density.”

These arguments from Richard Whitman about farms are merely lip service to the arbitrary smart growth philosophy of “farmland preservation,” found on any smart growth advocacy web site.  These statements are not grounded in any practical considerations — given that 99% of Eastern Oregon is forest and rangeland.  However, whether he wants to or not, Whitman is an attorney and has to uphold Oregon Law, even though it’s clearly not applicable to Eastern Oregon, given the amount of open high desert.

Besides ranching, which can occur in National Forest lands covered with Pines and Junipers, the area around Bend does not support that many farms (compared to the Willamette Valley, for instance). Many farmers would love to sell their land to housing developers and mountain resorts in Eastern Oregon, if not for the restrictions.

Dr. William Fischel at Dartmouth, who found that even if every family of four had one acre, this would only cover 3% of the lower contiguous 48 states (I qoute Dr. Fischel at this link).

Indeed,  Bill Robie, Government affairs director of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors, observes the arbitrary nature of the DLCD statewide planning process, in the Bend Bulletin editorial “Land-Use Board Coercive,” July 10, 1010, http://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100710/NEWS01/7100323:

“Anyone harboring the belief that Oregon’s land use planning is a pristine, objective system that preserves some vestige of local self-determination should read Greg Macpherson’s guest column (click here) on Bend’s urban growth boundary expansion.

The system has become just another grubby political exercise by which state officials enforce their personal preferences or arbitrary notions of social and environmental justice, all at the expense of local economies.

Last year, Jefferson County had its economic plans gutted for the crime of crossing swords with a powerful state legislator. Bend must endure the elitist condescension of a suburban politician and panel of political appointees who will ensure that our community doesn’t stray from the sanctified path of carbon-free, high-density growth.”

The following is stunning. Due to the urban growth boundary and high demand, Bill points out that land prices increased by over 1,000 percent from 1997 to 2007:

“Mcpherson asserts a host of benefits that will derive from his preferred growth model, including housing affordability. The facts are not on his side. “Market forces” were not behind the lack of affordable housing in Bend in recent years. A constrained supply resulting from our UGB caused land prices to rise to $467,500 per acre in 2007 from $33,683 in 1997 as demand for housing soared.”

Bill also knows that high density infill condos are not desirable:

“LCDC’s vision for Bend (“In 30 years, Bend should not look like a larger version of just what it is now”) will increase the cost of housing, force developers to build unpopular high-rise, high-density projects (Putnam Pointe, anyone?), upzone established low-density neighborhoods, and reduce our overall livability and desirability. This is what Macpherson means when he says we “should adapt to a changing economy and evolving lifestyles.”


Long History of Growth Battles in Bend between the Locals, Newcomers, and the DLCD

Finally, in urban planning, it’s often useful to look at previous growth rate of a place, and see who they have hired in projecting future growth. As I explained in this post, new housing units in Bend increased by 41% from 2000 to 2008. That exceeds most Western US counties, as you can see by the .pdf link to the article by Bill Bishop at my post.

However, that growth divided the region, by alienating local farmers and members of special interest conservation groups, as explained in this classic 2001 article from the Oregonian. The issues in Bend face many other Western tourist/college towns, such as Durango, Colorado; Ashland, Oregon; Flagstaff, Arizona; Santa Fe, NM; and Boulder, Colorado.

Despite local resistance, Bend has a long tradition of progressive, business friendly and pro-growth policies, receiving high rankings from many economic publications. This article describes previous pro-business City manager David Hales; the current city manager is Eric King. Since the Bend City Council keeps hiring people who want to grow fast, then why not have Richard Whitman manage Western Oregon, and a second Land Chief manage Eastern Oregon?

Certainly, if I wanted to move to Oregon and start a business, I’d choose a town with decades of rapid growth, friendly to entrepreneurs. Bend scored at #46 out of several hundred cities nationwide for Economic Vitality, from William Fruth of the Policom Corporation.

The link below appears in a Mormon publication, since the original article is no longer available at the Bend Bulletin web site:

http://www.mormonstoday.com/011019/T2DHales01.shtml News about Mormons, Mormonism, and the LDS Church; Sent on Mormon-News: 17 Oct, 2001; By Kent Larsen

BEND, OREGON — Faced with divisions over its rapid growth and a decade of struggle to keep up with it, Bend, Oregon has hired experienced city manager David Hales to run the city. And those in Bend City Hall seem excited about his arrival, after meeting him in interviews and tours. Hales, a returned LDS missionary who served in Korea, was also praised as a family man, first and foremost, and an outdoor enthusiast.


But by the mid-1990s Ceterville had grown as much as it could, and Hales was looking for a bigger opportunity, and in 1997 he took a job with Kannapolis, North Carolina, population 36,910. Located 20 miles northwest of Charlotte, the city’s population also grew, 24 percent during the 1990s. There Hales also handled the city’s growth well, “He handled it exceptionally well,” said city councilor Richard Anderson. “He’s very liberal and aggressive in pursuing economic development. He’s highly recognized and accepted well by the community.”

And Anderson says he also handled controversial growth issues well there, walking into a city divided over change and growth, “He dealt with a variety of factions in the city. Some do not like change — especially the older generation. He’s worked with various community groups, the chamber. He was involved with a visioning committee with citizens, and he really pulled these factions together,” Anderson said.

Now Hales faces a similar situation in Bend. The city is also facing divisions over growth. And after looking at more than 60 applicants for the job, city councilors chose Hales, citing his experience, energy, enthusiasm, vision and interpersonal skills.



Hales ready to handle growth issues in Bend (Broken Link, 2001)

Bend Bulletin, 14 Oct, 2001 T2

By Anne Aurand: The Bulletin


Here’s the September 22, 2010 article discussing the order to increase density (upzoning) from Richard Whitman:


Bend must shrink growth plan

In draft of final order, state tells city to develop more within boundaries

By Nick Grube / The Bulletin Published: September 22. 2010 4:00AM PST

City of Bend officials should soon know what they need to do to get state approval for expanding the city’s urban growth boundary.

On Monday, the Oregon Land and Development Commission gave the city a draft of a final order that will essentially govern how and where the city is allowed to grow over the next 20 years.

While city officials are still digesting the 156-page document, they know the city will have to shrink its initial 8,462-acre UGB expansion proposal and come up with a refined plan for guiding future growth as the population increases.

Bend’s initial expansion proposal was shot down by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development because officials there say the city tried to include too much land without resolving issues related to developing vacant lots in the current UGB, providing enough land for affordable housing, and planning for future transportation and public works needs. The state also wants the city to increase development within its current UGB bounds.

City officials appealed that decision to the commission because they felt the agency was overreaching its legal bounds under state land use laws. That appeal was heard during a series of public hearings in the spring when the commission decided city planners needed to do a little more work on the UGB proposal before it could be approved.

“We always knew that there would be a remand, and we knew that the nature of that remand would be based on the commission’s actions,” Bend Long-Range Planning Manager Brian Shetterly said. “This is the first draft of that remand order, and we want to make sure from our perspective that it’s accurate from what we understood from what the commission decided during the hearings.”

The city has until Oct. 4 to review the order and make sure there are no glaring mistakes that need to be corrected.

No new arguments can be brought up during that review process.

Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development Executive Director Richard Whitman said the city shouldn’t find any surprises in the draft of the final order. The real purpose of the order, he said, is for the city to reanalyze how much growth can occur within the existing UGB and to more thoroughly justify why it needs to expand in other areas.

“There will still be a fairly significant expansion of the urban growth boundary, and it’s going to be up to the city where that expansion is going to occur,” Whitman said. “The main message I would send here is that although it’s been sent back (to the city for more work), the basic decisions are still the decisions for the city, the City Council, the planning commission and the people of the city for what they want the city to look like.”

Bend has already spent an estimated $4 million to create the UGB expansion plan. That process took several years, and Bend Senior Planner Damian Syrnyk said he doesn’t anticipate a new plan will take as long as the first one.

“Since a lot of the groundwork is already done, we don’t expect it’s going to take as long as the first proposal did,” Syrnyk said. “We’re looking at a timeline for maybe 18 to 20 months for completing these and starting the public hearing process.”

The last time Bend expanded its UGB was in 1981 when the city’s population was 17,425. The population is now over 80,000.



2 comments on “(Updated Jan. 24, 2010) My Case for Large Lots and Wide Streets: Photo Essay

  1. The Density Dude

    COAR, Central Oregon Association of REALTORS®
    Association of REALTORS®
    The Voice of Real Estate in Central Oregon


    Bend UGB Testimony II

    The Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® is generally pleased with the outcome of the past year’s work by the Planning Commission, Technical Advisory Committee and city staff.

    It is important that the UGB expansion provide sufficient land to accommodate future growth in a way that does not lead to a rapid escalation in land prices, meets the demands of the housing market, and maintains the livability of the community. We believe the city’s UGB proposal has the potential to achieve those objectives.

    We disagree with several of the recommendations made by the county planning commission last week. Items 1 through 4 represent issues that have been discussed by the TAC and the city planning commission extensively. These latest recommendations, if adopted, would result in a smaller UGB that makes it more difficult for the city to provide the quantity and diversity of housing needed to meet consumer demand and preserve the livability of the city.

    1. We have no reason to believe that the city’s 31% allocation for rights of way is excessive. In fact, it is just as likely that it may be an underestimate given the requirements for stormwater, bike lanes, sidewalks, etc. that will impact future development.
    2. The vacation home acreage was a compromise that we believe is reasonable and realistic.
    3. With respect to future density and redevelopment of existing UGB land, our view is the complete opposite of the county planning commission and DLCD, and represents the only area where we disagree with the city.
    4. Earlier this year the city reduced its goal of an average residential density to six units per acre from seven units per acre. We think that’s a step in the right direction. We also believe the city could go lower.

    Current average density for all residential development is four units per acre. The average density for single family residential is three. A goal of six units per acre would mean a 50% increase in the city’s residential density over the 20-year planning period. While there has been a trend toward increasing density recently, we don’t believe it’s sustainable. We believe it has more to do with recent land prices and land availability than consumer demand. As the marketplace shows today, those types of housing products are not popular.

    The reason the 1998 general plan update so badly underestimated the consumption of land is because it inaccurately predicted the market demand for single family detached housing. We hope the same mistake is not made again. While we accept the 65:35 projected housing mix as a reasonable compromise, we still feel it will be a difficult target to reach given that the trend for the last eighteen years has been toward more detached v. attached product.

    That’s not to say that density shouldn’t or won’t be part of the housing solution. There are opportunities for increased density in some areas of the city over the next twenty years, especially in areas around transit corridors, near employment centers and mixed use projects. We also need to add more rental housing units. But with respect to home ownership citywide, the history of the Bend market clearly demonstrates that lower density, single family detached housing products is what consumers want, and that, by definition, is what livability means.

    We think a density target of five units per acre would be justified. That adjustment to the Housing Need Analysis would allow the city to add more land if it chose to.

    We have the same concerns about the assumptions used by staff to determine the redevelopment potential of land inside the current UGB. Those assumptions mean 60% of our housing need over the next twenty years will be accommodated within today’s UGB. We think this is unrealistic and are less confident than staff that redevelopment will occur as densely as projected. Again, adjusting those assumptions would allow the city more leeway with overall acreage.

    We also urge the council to be flexible with respect to the framework plan. Twenty years is a long time. Many of the areas in the new UGB will be master planned in ways that we cannot predict today. Providing flexibility will allow for creativity and innovation in future developments that may address challenges such as the Transportation Planning Rule. We also may find that today’s site specific zoning for an auto mall or hospital may not be the best choice in ten or fifteen years. At the very least it seems unfair that specific property owners have their choices limited for twenty years to accommodate today’s preferences.

    In conclusion, we think some of the policy decisions that went into this proposal could be modified to accommodate more land. We believe such changes are more realistic and consistent with market demand, and will ensure that the community continues to grow in a way that maintains and enhances its quality of life. Notwithstanding those concerns we believe this proposal is a dramatic improvement over where we were a year ago and fairly represents the collaborative efforts of many dedicated people.

  2. Metolius

    Here’s another position statement from Bill Robie at COAR discussing destination resorts, Richard Whitman, and the Governor –

    COAR, Central Oregon Association of REALTORS®
    Association of REALTORS®
    The Voice of Real Estate in Central Oregon


    Government Affairs / Testimony List / Article

    Print Version

    Feb. 12, 2009
    Metolius Basin ACC Designation

    COAR is the trade association for Central Oregon’s real estate industry. We are the second largest Realtor® association in Oregon and represent more than 1,500 real estate professionals. Our members are engaged daily in residential and commercial transactions providing essential services to their clients and adding value to their communities.

    Our position on this issue reflects COAR’s fundamental advocacy platform of ensuring and enhancing the quality of life of Central Oregon, which includes promoting economic vitality, protecting the rights of private property owners, providing homeownership opportunities, and preserving our natural environment.

    COAR supports destination resorts and encourages their creation as essential components of the regional economy. We view them as particularly important in rural areas that have few options for job creation and tax revenue generation.

    The proposed Area of Critical State Concern designation for the Metolius Basin and a ten-mile buffer around it is unwarranted and represents bad public policy. It is a direct assault on local land use planning and the legitimate prerogative of local governments to determine their own economic future.

    Through an open public process laid out by the state in its land use rules and regulations Jefferson County chose to include destination resorts as part of its economic development plans. This was a transparent and legal policy decision. Opponents of that decision, which did not include the state, have used and continue to the legal avenues available to them to challenge that decision.

    If Governor Kulongoski was concerned about the development of resorts in Jefferson County his office had every opportunity during the comprehensive plan development process to express those concerns to the county. The county has proceeded under the good faith assumption that the Governor would respect his own land use laws and regulations. This Area of Critical State Concern proposal and the drafting of legislation banning resorts outright from the Metolius Basin demonstrates that the Governor has little interest in keeping faith with Jefferson County and the state’s land use planning system.

    Jefferson County has followed the same rules in choosing its economic development policy as other counties that allow destination resorts as well as every local government in Oregon that has developed or amended a comprehensive plan. For the state to step in two years after the county adopted its plan and try to derail it over one project is heavy handed and unfair. The tactics being used by the Governor are preemptive and inappropriate and will have long-lasting negative consequences.

    DLCD Director Richard Whitman has said publicly that the department looks at the A.C.C. designation as a “flexible tool” that it hopes to utilize more in the future in other areas of the state. This is a troubling statement if you are a business looking to locate or expand in Oregon or just a taxpayer interested in economic development. The A.C.C. designation is a powerful weapon that DLCD has apparently decided it will use to stop any project that doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard. One can imagine other politically incorrect economic or residential development plans that are otherwise perfectly legal which the state will choose to stop using this “flexible tool”.

    When viewed in the context of the legislature’s 2007 political sabotage of the “Big Look” committee and the resulting legislation (H.B. 2229) it is clear that the current administration is making a mockery of the land use process and the ability of local governments to determine their own future.

    The Governor’s claim that the A.C.C. designation is necessary to protect the Metolius River basin is baseless. The designation is obviously being used solely because there are no other legal means to throw out Jefferson County’s destination resort map. The responses of state agencies to the Governor’s request to find a mechanism to stop the conceptual resorts are filled with ominous warnings about potential environmental impacts, but no hard facts to justify legal intervention.

    Public opposition as expressed at Sisters High School on Wednesday, February 11 was similarly vague and emotionally based. There were few, if any, facts offered by resort opponents to show that destination resorts have had anything other than a beneficial impact on Central Oregon. Environmental demagoguery should not be a legitimate basis for the state to preemptively strike down these projects. The Governor should provide a solid foundation of facts and evidence of significant environmental damage caused by existing resorts in Central Oregon before proceeding with any effort to circumvent an otherwise legal land use process.

    The Governor’s intervention in Jefferson County’s land use process is a threat to economic development throughout Oregon, but particularly in Central Oregon. Destination resorts are an essential and beneficial component of our economy.

    Central Oregon’s experience with resorts has demonstrated unequivocally the benefits of this land use. It is difficult to imagine how different our region would be without their contribution to the economy. Resorts provide vital tax revenue that supports essential county services. They provide good paying jobs in development, construction, real estate sales, and in ongoing resort operations. They provide lifestyle and recreational amenities that attract a disproportionate share of high income customers that spend money at local businesses and support local charities. Most importantly, they provide all of these assets and more and place only a minimal strain on local infrastructure. The resorts are mostly self-sufficient and require little in the way of emergency services. Their impact on traffic is marginal because they generate few, if any, peak hour trips, and can be mitigated easily by development exactions in the planning phase.

    It is clear from Deschutes County’s history with resorts that their benefits exceed their costs. Black Butte Ranch, Eagle Crest and Sunriver enhance Central Oregon not only by providing tax revenue, but recreational, cultural and business amenities as well. Pronghorn, Eagle Crest and Sunriver are three of the county’s top ten taxpayers in 2008. Sunriver generates approximately $1,975 in property tax revenue per full-time resident. In comparison Bend generates only $238 for each resident. Proposed uses at the Hidden Canyon resort in Crook County show nine different tax revenue generating opportunities. By its tenth year of operation Hidden Canyon is projected to generate more than $10 million a year in property tax revenue for Crook County. Property taxes paid by destination resorts are a vital source of revenue for schools and emergency services.

    Visitors to Sunriver pay more than $2 million each year in transient room tax revenue. Based on PGA Tour estimates, the Jeld-Wen Tradition golf tournament contributes between $7 – $9 million a year to Central Oregon’s economy. That tournament, and others like the Pacific Amateur, would not be possible without the nationally recognized facilities that are part of destination resorts.

    The federal timber payments program was recently revived for four more years, but with a declining series of payments. Central Oregon governments are slashing jobs because of the economic slowdown, which is driven by the decline in real estate development and construction. How bad would the budget situation be in Crook and Deschutes Counties without the tax revenue provided by resorts?

    Central Oregon has limited economic development opportunities beyond tourism and our lifestyle amenities. While we would like to diversity our economy, for the foreseeable future residential and recreational development and construction will be the basis of our prosperity. Unemployment in Deschutes County is more than 11%. It is much worse in Jefferson and Crook Counties. Economic projections indicate Deschutes County unemployment may hit 15%. How much worse will it be in Jefferson County? The obstructionist policies of the Oregon Department of Transportation have already resulted in a growth moratorium in our region that is contributing to our economic decline. The Governor’s proposed use of the A.C.C. process to arbitrarily strike down individual development projects is inconsistent with his claims to be supportive of economic development in Oregon and will worsen our condition.

    COAR is worried that the proposed use of the A.C.C. designation is a bad precedent and harbinger of things to come. Director Whitman has said that DLCD wants to use the process in similar fashion in the future. Resort opponents in Sisters provided either explicit or implicit support for declaring other areas in Central Oregon off limits to development. We don’t believe this is the way that the A.C.C. process was meant to work.

    In more than thirty years DLCD has considered only one A.C.C. designation despite examining candidates for such designation statewide. Destination resorts have been around in one form or another for more than twenty years. Black Butte Ranch was the first resort-style development in Central Oregon and it is located in the Metolius River basin. It is hardly a pristine area. The public, and local and state governments, have had ample opportunity to establish an A.C.C. in the Metolius basin and with good reason have not done so. Nothing has changed. We have twenty years of evidence to show that properly planned and permitted destination resorts are compatible with a healthy and vibrant natural environment.

    The Governor’s use of the A.C.C. process encourages resort opponents to promote the use of this regulatory tool to circumvent the normal land use process and monkeywrench every development project they don’t like. Resort opponents are not concerned about the environmental impacts of the resorts. They are concerned about their very existence. Resorts mean more people and more people mean economic growth. That is an unacceptable outcome for growth opponents. The Governor’s proposal provides all the guidance and encouragement that anti-growth pressure groups need to wage war on other development projects in Central Oregon.

    An A.C.C. designation for the Metolius River basin will have a chilling effect on Central Oregon’s future economic development. The A.C.C. process will be wielded like the Sword of Damocles over the head of every developer who seeks to do business in our area. The costs of doing business in Oregon, thanks to our constrained land supply and dismal record on private property rights, are already legendary and a significant obstacle to economic growth. Governor Kulongoski’s efforts to strike down discrete projects will only make that situation worse by introducing uncertainty and capriciousness to the development process.

    COAR urges the department to ignore the environmental hysteria, reject the A.C.C. designation for the Metolius River basin and take a stand for local self-determination and economic prosperity.

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