Bend is a great city in central Oregon. My wife and I have envisioned ourselves living there someday.
But the Bend newspaper, the Bulletin, should recognize that editorializing in favor of LA-like sprawl rather than sustainability isn't going to encourage environmentally-minded people to move to the area.
There's plenty of places in the country where subdivisions checkerboard the countryside and big box stores dominate the shopping landscape. In fact, Bend already has done a good (actually, bad) job of uglifying itself along its major highways.
Yet today the not-so-wise editorial board of the Bulletin whipped itself into a frenzy, castigating Greg Macpherson -- a member of the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) -- for daring to suggest that Bend's desire to increase the size of its Urban Growth Boundary by 40% needs some rethinking.
Here's some of what Macpherson said in a Bulletin opinion piece last Wednesday, which was republished today. (Annoyingly the Bulletin doesn't make its content freely available online. I had to fork out 50 cents to access the Macpherson piece and the editorial, which I've appended at the end of this post.)
Boundaries are a great Oregon innovation — one of the ways the state
earned its reputation for environmental leadership. UGBs separate town
from country, farm from shopping mall, and forest from subdivision. They
also help ensure that cities carefully consider how to grow, to keep
costs down while providing land for needed jobs and housing.
...The requirements of Oregon's statewide
planning program can help Bend become an even better place to live.
Infill of vacant space inside the existing UGB will cost residents less
for new roads, sewers and water lines. More compact development will
improve access to public transportation. Large undeveloped spaces will
be preserved for the educational and industrial uses that enhance
economic opportunity. Lower-cost public services will make housing more
affordable. A reduction in the average vehicle miles traveled per
resident will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Oregon's statewide
planning goals promote all these aims and more.
In any planning
process, it's important to embrace the opportunity for positive change.
In 30 years, Bend should not look like a larger version of just what it
is now. It should adapt to a changing economy and evolving lifestyles.
The decision on the size and location of its UGB is an important part of
Not exactly a wildly radical statement.
The Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), which is overseen by the LCDC, sent back Bend's Urban Growth Boundary expansion proposal for more work. The voluminous record of the review can be read here. A press release summarized why the proposal got an "incomplete" grade.
Download Bend UGB press release
When I scanned the 169 page DLCD order remanding Bend's proposal, a lot of good arguments for doing this caught my eye. Seemingly the city doesn't need anywhere near the amount of land that it wants to urbanize, choosing sprawl over sustainability for no good reasons.
Bend should realize that it is part of Oregon, not an independent principality run by the Bulletin, the Chamber of Commerce, and real estate developers. The editorial board got all huffy about -- gasp! -- applying state land use laws to Bend.
The DLCD has reviewed Bend’s proposal to expand its
urban growth boundary and found it wanting. In a nutshell, the DLCD
wants Bend to develop much more densely than the city’s residents and
elected officials do, the ideal apparently being a miniature version of
Portland bounded by mile after mile of forest and desert.
now lectures the benighted citizens of Bend about the benefits of
land-use restrictions that will make their housing more affordable,
their carbon footprints more dainty, their infrastructure cheaper and
public transportation more workable.
Problem is, this would
require Bend to develop in a way that most people who live here oppose,
which is why their elected representatives on city council approved the
UGB expansion they did. Macpherson glibly dismisses the desires of Bend
residents by spouting pablum: “In any planning process it’s important to
embrace the opportunity for positive change.”
So the Bend Bulletin editorial board apparently is in favor of unaffordable housing, more global warming, expensive infrastructure, and unworkable public transportation.
Wow, if I really believed, as the editorial claims, that this represents the desire of the city's residents, I'd immediately scratch Bend off of my list of possible places to move to one day.
What's also crazy about the pave it over attitude of the editorial board is this: the Bend housing market sucks. In 2008 it was the second most over-valued market in the country. Not surprisingly, in 2009 Bend crashed back to reality, hard.
With one of the nation’s slowest housing markets, Bend has led the state
of Oregon to the fifth-worst housing market in the country for default
notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions.
...Deschutes County — where Bend is located — experienced one
foreclosure per 168 homes, 14 percent worse than Wayne, County,
Michigan, home to Detroit and the troubled auto industry.
Jim Homolka, president of Re/Max Equity
Group Inc., called Bend a classic example of a market that soared
too high. “The market got overheated and overpriced and it just stopped,” he
said. Last fall, Re/Max Equity Group elected to close its Bend office after
concluding it will take too long for the market to recover.
Yet somehow the Bend Bulletin (which I'll bet is echoing it's lord and master, the Chamber of Commerce, given how advertising revenue drives newspaper decisions nowadays) concludes that the solution to overbuilding and urban sprawl is...(drumroll, please) more overbuilding and urban sprawl.
Well, hopefully the sensible citizens of Bend will pressure city leaders to do what is right for the long term, not what short-sighted politicians and business types are advocating.
Like almost everyone who loves central Oregon -- we're part owners of a cabin in Camp Sherman, about 45 minutes from Bend -- I don't want to see the Bend area become a miniaturized version of southern California, with the countryside eaten up by sprawling subdivisions and the city dominated by ugly strip malls, traffic jams, and a declining downtown.
Sadly, this seems to be what the Bend Bulletin wants. Hopefully the state's land use planning process will continue to protect what the editorial board doesn't care about: a beautiful, sustainable, livable Bend.