Deschutes County Holds Three Hearings on Comprehensive Plan

Craig Beebe, 1000 Friends of Oregon Communications Intern

Over the next 10 days, the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners will hold three public hearings to discuss the draft Comprehensive Plan for guiding land use in the County’s unincorporated areas to 2030.

Deschutes County has seen rapid change since the previous plan was adopted in 1979; since the late 1980s, it has consistently been Oregon’s fastest growing county. Though the recent recession has softened that growth somewhat, it is clear that a new plan is long overdue.

In 2030, the County’s population is projected to be over 260,000 people, nearly doubling in size from today. With several substantial unincorporated communities and destination resorts, as well as vast farming, ranching, and forest areas, the County must plan for a wide variety of land use types and needs. For the last three years, planners have worked with the public to identify a vision and strategy that will accommodate such growth while protecting the characteristics residents value most. The vision that has emerged is one that would protect “the beauty, bounty and richness of a healthy natural environment,” as well as a strong economy and preservation of rural character.

The Plan correctly notes that “a key to economic growth in Deschutes County is to recognize and protect the natural resources that contribute to the quality of life that draws both employers and employees as well as tourists to the area.” Fortunately, it identifies and highlights the importance of agriculture to the county’s economy. In 2010, sales of crops and livestock exceeded $21 million. Although the County has changed substantially from the forest- and farm-dominated economy that first attracted settlers, agriculture and forestry remain vital to its economic success.

As the Plan nears adoption, it is important to remind the Board of Commissioners that Deschutes County succeeds when it finds a balance that encourages its farms and resource lands to flourish while accommodating population growth in a sustainable way. Public hearings are scheduled in several communities around the county: in Bend on Tuesday, March 29; in La Pine on Thursday, March 31, and in Sisters on Tuesday, April 5. All hearings begin at 6 pm. For more information on their location, and to read the chapters of the draft Comprehensive Plan, click here. If you cannot attend a hearing, you can also submit comments to the County Commissioners by emailing board@co.deschutes.or.us.

To stay up to date on planning processes and issues in Central Oregon, visit our Central Oregon regional office homepage.