The city of Bend’s efforts to expand its urban growth boundary will remake the entire city, not just the outer edges.
While Bend’s footprint will grow by about 2,000 acres, the project will change development rules throughout the city and is intended to spur more new growth within the existing core than in land that will be added.
The expansion is intended to accommodate population growth through 2028, by which time the city plans to add 17,230 homes and room for the equivalent of 21,940 jobs. Just more than 71 percent of those homes are expected to be built inside the city’s existing boundary, while about 68 percent of the jobs will also be located within Bend’s existing footprint. This approach is required by state rules that encourage infill and density, the legacy of laws passed in the 1970s intended to protect farmland and hem in urban sprawl.
The strength of the state’s land use laws were felt in 2010, when a proposed expansion of Bend’s urban growth boundary, or UGB, was rejected by the state. The UGB is the line that divides urban development from land governed by a county’s rural standards. The 2010 request called for about 8,000 new acres, about 5,000 of which were considered developable. The state government made it clear that if Bend wanted to grow, it would have to place a greater emphasis on density — growing not just out, but up.
At meetings this week, city staff, consultants and appointed community advisers began discussing how to plan for the development of annexed land and “opportunity areas” within the current footprint. Such areas are designated places where the city has decided to focus infill growth.
The actual expansion has largely been mapped, and the effort now is focused on writing documents that steer the city’s development policies.
Joe Dills, a consultant helping steer the expansion process, described the project’s goal as “wisely growing up and out” at an advisory meeting Thursday morning.
“This is a recognition of both the maturing of the city and its transition from being a town in character with a resource history, a community of 50,000 and less, to being a city,” Dills continued. “It will have 80,000 and more residents, with urban amenities, but we still want to capture the best of the past.”
City staff sees focusing infill growth in opportunity areas, like a stretch of Third Street and the Korpine industrial site near the Crux Fermentation Project, as a way to allow the city’s character to endure while also embracing change.
In general, the city will change the zoning in these opportunity areas to allow for mixed-use developments, projects that blend housing, offices and stores, often vertically on different stories.
“What this means is that these areas, over time, will be moving in a new direction,” said Brian Rankin, a city of Bend planner overseeing the expansion. “But any business or use in these areas now will be allowed to continue and to expand. It’s elective — we’re saying they’re allowed to do something new, but they can also keep doing whatever they’re doing.”
What might nudge property owners to change is basic financial math — often the more dense a development, the more lucrative it becomes.
While infill growth will be focused in the opportunity areas, rules governing the entire city will shift to encourage more density.
“Overall, the approach has been to be careful and strategic about citywide changes,” said Rankin.
One example Rankin gave is an increase in the minimum density allowed in areas zoned for residential uses. The change isn’t dramatic, as most new projects are built well above the current minimum density, but the project will eliminate the potential for houses on relatively large lots within city limits.
For those areas that will be brought into the UGB, the city’s focus is now on how to plan them. Generally, all new areas will have a mix of housing types, including multifamily developments, as well as commercial services. However, turning these goals into concrete plans with zoning maps is difficult when an area has multiple property owners.
For some of the expansion areas, there is only one property owner. For example, the city intends to bring in a 221-acre piece on the city’s southern end dubbed “the thumb.” The entire property is owned by the Ward family, who will have to submit a master plan before the property is annexed by the city.
“The master plan process requires owners to demonstrate how they’re providing parks, schools, amenities, a good transportation network and how it will all be pulled together into a cohesive neighborhood,” Rankin said. “That’s a lot harder to pull off when you have many small property owners who need to coordinate.”
The city is considering to what degree it should guide such coordination among distinct owners or allow owners to work things out on their own. Rankin noted some property owners have expressed concern that a lengthy planning process could delay development.
Before the state approves the expansion and the city’s new development policies, they will have to be approved by the City Council. The Deschutes County Commission also must approve the specific location of the new boundary. The city hopes the process will be completed later this year.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin