What’s Brewing – Bend’s UGB Moving Forward

L-R: The expert panel included S.E. Bend Neighborhood Association Chair Bill Galaway, Bend Mayor Casey Roats, Executive Director of Central Oregon LandWatch Paul Dewey, President & CEO of Brooks Resources Kirk Schueler, and City Planning Manager, Brian Rankin. Photo: Tor Hanson – Courtesy, Bend Chamber.

Originally published in the Bend Chamber Business Edition – March 17, 2017

The expansion of the urban growth boundary was the easy part. Now comes the hard work, figuring out how to build and pay for the expansion. Bend Chamber’s What’s Brewing delved into the many challenges ahead of the city, developers and Bend citizens when it comes to living up to the promises made in the UGB planning document.

Moderated by Bend Chamber EVP of Community Affairs, Jamie Christman, the topic of the evening was Bend’s UGB – Moving Forward. The expert panel included City Planning Manager, Brian Rankin, President & CEO of Brooks Resources Kirk Schueler, Executive Director of Central Oregon LandWatch Paul Dewey, Bend Mayor Casey Roats, and S.E. Bend Neighborhood Association Chair Bill Galaway.

In front of a sold-out crowd gathered at Deschutes Brewing Tap Room on Bond Street, the audience got a first look at the challenges ahead, making good on the many urgent issues facing Bend –public infrastructure improvement (streets, sewer, and water), affordable housing, transportation, employment, and the quality of life the city’s population has come to expect.

Rankin tackled many of the questions throughout the evening. As the manager of the city’s planning division, he was intimately involved in the UGB planning process.

“People expect that once we’re done with the UGB, we’ll start building,” said Rankin. “The difficult discussion is not over. It is going to take continued investments on the part of all citizenry to stay involved in this.”

A full supporter of the plan, Mayor Roats is hoping the community takes a positive approach to the new UGB.

“[Recently] former city councilor Chudowsky shared the YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) concept on Facebook” said Roats. “My hope is that the community will coalesce around the idea that change is going to happen and that we embrace it.”

Bend’s new land use plan is broken into two major parts: expansion and opportunity areas. Expansion areas are new land that will be brought into the city through the UGB process. Opportunity areas are already contained within the city boundaries but slated for redevelopment.

Speaking from a developer’s standpoint, Schueler highlighted the difference between a developer and a land owner.

“When there is critical mass, a developer can fund planning, engineering approval process and infrastructure,” said Schueler. “Smaller land owners are not capitalized to be developers, but for the city’s vision to come to fruition, some of the planning effort needs to be done [by the city].”

“A developer may have the capital resources and the motivation to spend it to achieve an outcome,” said Schueler. “Land owners have another perspective and that is one of the challenges moving forward: How do we bring those groups together for the betterment of their properties – zoning, improvements and other things that add value to their land.”

In the first round of UGB discussions, Central Oregon LandWatch and other organizations were dead-set against the direction the city was taking regarding land use, one of the reasons the original effort was remanded back to the city. Representing many of the environmental groups in the area, Dewey was involved in both UGB planning efforts.

“[After the planning] went into hiatus around the recession, we started up again” said Dewey.” “Some of the same conflicts carried over, but then something interesting started happening; we started compromising and working together. What we got out of it was a good working relationship with the city and the development community.”

After wrestling with Bend’s urban growth boundary (UGB) since 2008, the new plan got state approval in the fall of 2016. Smaller than the original request for adding 8,000 acres into Bend’s city limits, the new plan makes do with 2,380 acres. With the approved UGB expansion in place, many think the challenges are over. Not even close, said the panel of experts.

Taking cues from the Westside Traffic Consortium, a private public partnership (3P) that yielded several roundabouts on Bend’s westside and the Southern Crossing (Bill Healey Bridge and attached streets), Bend officials are eyeing similar partnerships in the future to pay for the city’s infrastructure needs.

Funded by private money and utilizing system development charge (SDC) reimbursements, private parties funded the infrastructure developments through the consortium.

“The city helped convene the effort by bringing the parties together. It was a collaborative process,” said Shueler. “As we developed a home in Northwest Crossing, and SDCs were paid, we received a portion of the SDCs [in return] to help repay for building the infrastructure.”

Rankin agreed the 3P system will be a necessity and the process will not happen behind closed doors.

“This is a public process and will be approved by city council,” said Rankin. “The important concept here is, we want to match the land use with infrastructure needs and financing that is fair, and [in the process] deliver a product that hits affordability targets. If [the city] can’t build it ourselves, a developer will not take it on.”

The extension of Murphy Road to meet up with the new extension areas in S.E. Bend drew praise from Galaway who represents the Neighborhood Association. The proposed road will move traffic from the west to the east-side of Bend.

“Fifty-four percent of the new land added is adjacent to S.E. Bend and that is great news,” Aside from the current [city] administration, [the area] has not been focused on in terms of infrastructure improvements.”

But funding the improvements is not as easy as untying the purse string:

“We don’t have a giant pot of money sitting there,” said Rankin. “We have reserves in our transportation fund, around $17 million. Upgrading Murphy Road – building a bridge and extending it eastward into the expansion areas, will be around $30 million.”

Affordable housing has also become an integral part of Bend’s growth challenges. Rankin stressed it is not an easy problem to solve and Schueler echoed his sentiments telling the audience affordable housing is a supply and demand issue controlled by market forces.

“We live in a place that is very desirable. People want to move here and live here. It is the hard part of the dynamic here on the price of a home, said Schueler. “In the original phase of NW Crossing, Brooks Resources sold 4,500 sq. ft. lots for $42,000 with the intent to develop a mix of housing.”

The company set it up to hold lower priced homes, but with a market desirability came a new reality.

“Apparently, we did too good of a job,” commented Schueler. “By the third phase, builders were able to sell a house on the 4,500 sq. ft. lot for $400,000.”

With the new UGB plans comes a vision for building more affordable housing. Telling the audience that the city has done a lot of work trying to relieve the situation, Rankin made the point that the city is not in the business of development, and shouldn’t be.

“There will be a certain number of a certain type of [housing] units in the expansion areas,” said Rankin. “The role of the city is to make the big plans. The individual developer ends up pulling the trigger to do the development projects. The city does not – for better or worse, say, you will build these kinds of units. That is a private development issue.”

Identifying the opportunity areas as one of the highlights of the new UGB, and one of the reasons LandWatch supported the remanded plan, Dewey stressed the importance of redeveloping the area to bring down Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).

“If people live closer to where they eventually want to go, they can walk and bike there. That will reduce vehicle miles traveled,” said Dewey. “The nice thing about [the opportunity area] is that is a bridge between east and west. It connects to downtown and the Greenwood, which is another opportunity area of Bend.”

You can watch the What’s Brewing – Bend’s UGB Moving Forward here.