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Bigger, greener Bend? UGB expansion, climate action plans advance


Two issues about Bend’s future shared center stage at City Hall on Wednesday, as councilors gave the initial nod to a revised. slimmed-down urban growth boundary expansion and also adopted a resolution to set city government goals to tackle climate change.

On Tuesday night, four city council candidates had talked about how to keep Bend livable and still accommodate new people moving to town. Bend is working on how to be bigger and greener at the same time.

Right now, there’s little room for Bend to grow. After five years of work, city councilors gave the unanimous “first reading” and moved toward formal adoption of a new urban growth boundary.

If passed,the amendment would allow the bend UGB to add 2,380 acres of land for housing, schools, parks and more.

State land-use law says every city must add enough land to accommodate 20 years of expected residential, industrial and commercial growth.

Several years ago, the state rejected a much larger Bend growth plan, saying the city needed add more housing on existing land first and avoid sprawl. Wednesday’s decision means the city should soon send its UGB plan to the state for review.

The second major issue of the night — setting goals for city government to reduce greenhouse gases and climate impacts.

“In this case ,you would say to your staff, build your budgets knowing that I’m going to try to find another position for our climate change,” Councilor Barb Campbell said.

Councilors debated adding a staff person to lead those efforts, and how to fund it.

“It seems like a backdoor way to use water and sewer bills to pay for these positions, does that make sense?” Councilor Casey Roats said.

But City Manager Eric King explained the connection in efforts to improve efficiency.

Mayor Jim Clinton said in other cities, such positions often wind up paying for themselves, because staff members find ways for the city to save money — a win-win.

“We’re trying for somebody who actually has time to be looking for grants, to be looking for funding,” Campbell said.

Councilors voted 5-2 Wednesday night to approve the climate action goals resolution, with Roats and Victor Chudowsky opposed.

Roats said he doesn’t doubt anyone’s good intentions, but said the city is being “philosophically inconsistent” when those who support the climate change move oppose a “carbon-neutral” hydroelectric facility at the end of the city’s new (and controversial) water pipeline.

He noted that emails to the council on the climate action proposal ran roughly 50-50, with comments like one person noting how the city doesn’t have the funds to pave formerly county streets in complete disrepair, such as Parrell Road.

Chudowsky questioned the message to the community from “aspirational” goals and targets, and repeated his view that if the goals are somehow met, “it’ll be due to a great extent to things beyond our control.”

But Councilor Doug Knight said he supported the “friendly, approachable climate action policy, while Campbell and Mayor Jim Clinton pointed out the U.S. recently signed onto a major climate agreement, as have 110 U.S. cities.

With a steering committee being formed to work on the details, there’s no doubt more discussion, debate and decisions are on the horizon, but the goal for many is clear — not just a bigger, but a greener and more livable Bend.

Central Oregon LandWatch, an opponent who appealed the initial 2009 UGB proposal, said it would have “allowed for massive sprawl” and expanded the city’s land area by more than 40 percent. But it called itself “a lead champion” of the current proposal.

Here’s more from their news release Wednesday:

“People live in Bend because we love to be near the beautiful mountains, forests, and high desert landscapes that surround Central Oregon,” said Connie Peterson, a Bend resident and native Oregonian. “This is a plan to accommodate Bend’s future population growth while protecting those natural surroundings. It is all made possible by Oregon’s visionary land use system”

In order to provide for compact development and efficient use of infrastructure, the plan focuses density and redevelopment in several “Opportunity Areas.” Brian Rankin, the city’s Long-Range Planning Manager, emphasizes that increased density in this plan is not designed for established neighborhoods.

“The Opportunity Areas where four to six story mixed-use development is allowed do not include any residential neighborhoods,” said Rankin. “These key redevelopment areas are to complement the existing neighborhoods so that more people have more options for economic services, grocery shops and dining out closer to where they live.”

The plan adds 2,380 acres to Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary and allows for zone changes in designated areas within the current city boundaries. Landowners who want to develop their land according to the new Comprehensive Plan rules will have to follow a public process that requires them to show how any development will affect transportation, sewer, water and other city infrastructure.

Central Oregon LandWatch has been involved in the public process, advocating for a limited expansion to prevent urban sprawl, protect wildlife habitat, encourage cost-effective growth, and foster affordable housing. LandWatch’s Executive Director, Paul Dewey, says his organization now supports the UGB proposal because “it is a carefully constructed plan that will lay the groundwork for creating the type of city Bend residents will enjoy 50 years from now. The stakes couldn’t have been higher and this community knocked it out of the park.”

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