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Letter: 2,000 more acres isn’t enough for Bend

The following Letter to the Editor was published in the August 15 edition of  The Bend Bulletin.

Letter: 2,000 more acres isn’t enough for Bend

By Gardner Williams

I attended the June 24 TAC Boundary committee meeting about Bend’s urban growth boundary expansion and I commend the volunteers on the panel for their efforts. This is a mind-numbing process and I personally could not handle it. If you haven’t paid attention to the work of the TAC committees or have avoided all discussion relating to the UGB, perhaps it’s time to get involved. I can understand the confusion surrounding it, even as someone following the developments, I’m still unclear as to what has led us in the direction we’re headed.

The state Land Use Board of Appeals remanded the past attempt for several reasons — the main one being too much acreage was proposed (over 8,000 acres), and I agree with that. The June 22 memorandum proposed 5,000 (plus or minus) acres for review (presumably selected because the advantages of each study area outweighed the disadvantages in each study area). The intent is to review and study the approximate 5,000 figure and winnow it down to a maximum of 2,000 acres.

I would suggest LUBA remand this scenario for proposing too little. In talking to folks about this issue, their impression seems to be Bend’s character would change overnight if larger acreages were included in the UGB. This just is not the case. The time required for annexing this acreage, zoning it, master-planning it and building the infrastructure necessary to serve it will take years to accomplish before ground even breaks.

Reducing the acreage from the first proposal of 8,000-plus acres to just over 2,000 acres (for all development uses including single-family, multifamily, office, retail, industrial, parks, schools, streets, alleys, etc.) is not a fix for the future of Bend’s affordability, livability and growth.

For some reason, there is a huge bias against growth on the west and northwest side of Bend, but these areas have larger parcels that can be master-planned to create award-winning communities. Developers purchased the acreage for NorthWest Crossing in 1998 and the city approved the master plan for its 480-acre community in 2001. Based on current sales volume, the developers anticipate completion within two more years. That’s a 19-year timeline driven by free-market conditions. The development yielded 1,337 individual attached and detached residences, four parks — including the amazing new Discovery Park, an elementary school, middle school, office, retail and industrial property, the latter contained in a centralized commercial district in the middle of the development. It has also won many national awards for its design and sustainability.

Given the direction this UGB planning appears headed, there will never be another NorthWest Crossing neighborhood developed in Bend for future generations.

The state requires a 20-year supply to meet growing demand. The Bulletin article on June 26 stated, “The expansion of the boundary, beyond which the state restricts development, is intended to accommodate the city’s growth through 2028.” By the time this process is complete and blessed by the state, it will be just over 10 years away from having to go through this incredibly complicated and expensive process all over again.

If this process concludes as currently planned, it fixes nothing. The future of affordable housing in Bend will be 600-square-foot cottages with no yards for your family. To put some perspective on this, the city of Redmond went through this process several years ago without a remand. Can you guess what Redmond, a city of 20,000 people approved? You guessed it — 2,000-plus acres to accommodate the growth of a city with a population a quarter the size of Bend.

I’m still unclear how the committee arrived at an unreasonable 2,000 acres to accommodate 20 years of growth, nor do I know what the right number is (maybe somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 acres), but I do know that 2,000 acres isn’t right.

— Gardner Williams lives in Bend.