Bend. Ore. – Hundreds of Bend residents showed up to a public hearing before the Bend City Council and the Deschutes County Commission that started Thursday afternoon and lasted nearly seven hours.
The hearing gave the public a chance to comment on the plan to expand Bend’s proposed urban growth boundary, which is the line that divides the city from land governed by a county’s rural standards.
At this point, the council plans to take the first step to approve the plan — after making some minor changes — at its next meeting Sept. 7.
The 2,300-acre expansion calls for Bend to grow not only out, but also up. The plan, which has cost the city about $2 million in planning so far, intends to accommodate population growth through 2028 by allowing for more than 17,000 homes and room for the equivalent of more than 21,000 jobs. Of those, more than 70 percent of homes and about 68 percent of the jobs are planned to be located within Bend’s current city limits.
On Thursday, many supported the plan, which aims to increase housing diversity and access to affordable homes. While many property owners — particularly those with county land that would be annexed by the city — agreed with the changes in the proposal, dozens spoke against it, saying city planners were out of touch with how longtime Bend residents want their city to look in the future.
Others voiced concerns about whether some areas being annexed would have adequate infrastructure to support high-density developments. Some areas are sparsely developed, such as swatches of land in the south part of Bend that lack adequate sewers and have crumbling roads.
The earliest the plan could get approval from the state would be sometime this winter. Then, property owners can submit plans to the city if they decide to redevelop their properties, a planning process that could take up to a year.
According to Brian Rankin, a city of Bend planner overseeing the expansion, the plan for the new urban growth boundary comes after the state in 2010 turned down a proposal that asked for an 8,000-acre expansion — about 6,000 acres larger than the current plan asks for. The city spent about $500,000 planning that proposal, for which it first sought state approval in 2007.
After the state denied the proposal, the city started working on the current one. Since 2014, Bend has allocated $2.7 million to pay for the planning including hiring a consulting firm and three citizen committees, Rankin said. Since 2014, the city has held more than 50 meetings about the plan, many of which allowed for public input.