Central Oregon News
Note: On May 31, 2013, our Bend office closed after three years. We will continue to be active in the region, with two board members and a Central Oregon Advisory Council to help guide our work and keep us attentive to land use issues. For questions, please contact Craig Beebe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bend Urban Growth Decisions: New Opportunities to Create a More Livable Bend
In 2010, the state Land Conservation and Development Commission denied Bend's urban growth boundary expansion proposal. The proposed 8400-acre expansion would have added nearly 40% to the amount of land that Bend currently occupies. 1000 Friends is now participating in the process to revise the proposal. In or view, that original proposal was too big. When cities add land for new single family homes the City has to pay for the sewer, water, and roads to those new developments. Part of those costs are paid for by system development charges. But part of the cost comes straight from the general fund. Recent research shows that the farther out the new development, the less likely it is that the property taxes paid by new residents will cover the costs of the infrastructure. Also, the farther out residents live, the farther they drive, adding air and water pollution in addition to greenhouse gases. On top of it all, surveys and research show that both retiring baby boomers and those in their 20s and 30s want to live in walkable mixed-use communities, not car-dependent suburbs. So not only is sprawl polluting and expensive, it is not even what people desire.
People live in Bend for the clean air and water, easy access to mountains and rivers, and culture such as festivals, art, microbrews, and music. With smart land use planning Bend can keep unique characteristics even while welcoming new people and jobs. It’s not a given, however. Smart planning can create efficient use of public funds, economic prosperity, and environmental quality.
Bend Sewer Infrastructure Advisory Group
Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled in the City of Bend
If Bend can justify an expansion of its Urban Growth Boundary, the city must also show that the new plan will either reduce vehicle miles traveled by 5% or that this reduction will occur in a reasonable amount of time. OAR 660-012-0035. “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (VMT) is the standard measurement of how many miles people in an area drive. Reducing average per capita VMT reduces greenhouse gases and other pollution associated with vehicle travel. Recent studies have shown that increasing more active transportation like biking, walking, and even taking transit, also has a positive effect on public health.
The Bend Transit Advisory Council
One of Bend’s first efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled was to analyze the city’s existing public transit system and make recommendations about how the city might increase ridership. 1000 Friends sat on the Technical Advisory Committee that oversaw this study and provided comments along the way. The project is almost complete. The latest information may be found at the city’s webpage.
Getting Bend on Bikes
Another effective way to reduce vehicle miles traveled is to increase miles traveled by bicycle. 1000 Friends is part of a newly formed group called Bend Bikes, which will be to advocating for better urban bike infrastructure and better urban biking culture, such as bike-to-work days, bicycle clothing events, coupons to bicycle stores, and more. 1000 Friends is contributing technical support by helping research effective bike transportation infrastructure; local, state and national programs; and funding opportunities. Bend Bikes is considering developing a Citizen’s Bike Plan that would include policies and routes to increase urban biking in Bend.
Central Oregon Large Lot Analysis
Deschutes, Jefferson, and Crook Counties have been working together to draft a regional plan to establish large (50-200 acre) "shovel ready" industrial sites in Central Oregon. 1000 Friends participated in the advisory council to ensure the plan was consistent with common sense land use planning and the law. Unfortunately, we disagreed with the final outcome and appealed Deschutes County's original proposal because it asked for too many acres with too little factual justification. However, we recently settled the matter. According to the settlement, up to six new large lots will be allowed in the tri-county region. If large new businesses actually occupy these sites, up to three new sites can be added. We hope this settlement brings the economic prosperity predicted by our economic development professionals.
Redmond Industrial Land
The City of Redmond has long wished to rezone 465 acres of land inside its urban growth boundary to industrial uses, pursuant to the city’s Eastside Framework Plan. However, because that land was originally contemplated to be the county fairgrounds and is zoned as open space, rezoning it for more intensive industrial use would require complying with state transportation laws that the county viewed as an expensive barrier to actual industrial use. Therefore, during the 2012 legislature Redmond requested and received special legislation allowing it to rezone the property without full compliance with the state Transportation Planning Rule. Ironically, despite regional concerns about a lack of large industrial lots, the City lobbied hard to ensure that this new industrial land could be subdivided into smaller parcels. 1000 Friends won the concession that at least one 50-acre parcel be kept intact.
1000 Friends is now monitoring implementation of the new law. Redmond’s Eastside Framework Plan is a long-term vision of mixed use development that creates a new vibrant downtown-like node on approximately 2000 acres near employment east of Highway 97 and the train tracks. The 465 acres at issue here are the primary industrial employment lands for the larger Eastside Plan, comprising about 20% of the total acreage. Different kinds of industries have different job densities. For example, warehouses occupy very large acreages, but employ only a few people. High-skill manufacturing tends to employ many more people per acre. If the industrial rezoning actually attracts industries with high densities of living wage jobs, East Redmond could become a model for smart development.
Ontario Industrial Land
The City of Ontario recently expressed interest in adding new large industrial lots to its urban growth boundary in hopes of attracting employers who desire such lots to the economically struggling region. Ontario recently hired a consultant to analyze the situation and make recommendations. 1000 Friends is monitoring this study to ensure that if a large UGB expansion is proposed, it is based on solid factual evidence of need.
Utility-Scale Wind & Solar Energy Siting
Counties throughout central and eastern Oregon are seeing an increase in proposals for utility-scale wind and solar farms on agricultural lands. Renewable energy sources are critical to a sustainable energy future for Oregon. Wind and solar have the potential to create a significant new economic opportunity for struggling rural economies, but they could also significantly change the rural Oregon landscape over the next generation. 1000 Friends is monitoring statewide legislation on utility scale wind and solar siting in Salem and participating in a legislative work group and a group convened by the Governor to craft policies that protect Oregon’s agricultural future and allow for appropriate siting of renewable energy facilities.
Commercial Events on Farmland in Deschutes County
Deschutes County recently amended its code to allow for an increased number of commercial events on farmland. 1000 Friends believes that while there is room for some events on farmland when they can provide supplementary income to farmers, commercial events should be secondary to and supportive of farming above all. Agriculture is Oregon’s second largest industry: one out of every 8 jobs in the state are agriculture related, and the industry is directly and indirectly linked to about $22 billion in sales of goods and services, accounting for 15% of the statewide total of sales involving all industry sectors. Agriculture is traded sector – 40% is exported out of the country, bringing new dollars to the state. And those figures have been increasing almost steadily for two decades, which is not a story any other industry can tell.
1000 Friends was closely involved with the code amendment, and we believe that the County did a good job of writing code that faithfully implemented the state law. We will be watching land use applications in Deschutes County and throughout the state for appropriate implementation.