Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why does Bend want to expand its boundaries?

A tour of Bend should help state officials determine that Bend has so mismanaged its growth over the years, that it doesn't deserve a chance to expand what it cannot adequately serve now.

The state Land Conservation and Development Commission is holding a hearing in Bend today and Friday to determine if Bend's appeal of the state's rejection of the city's expansion plans warrants any merit.

City officials took LCDC members on a carefully selected tour to highlight why Bend needs to expand. It's a good thing they took state officials to Bend's north end where poor planning resulted in the traffic gridlock on the north end of the parkway on Highway 97.

It got so bad there that the state Dept. of Transportation had to come in and slap a building moratorium on Bend because the city's mismanaged growth threatens the safety of drivers on Highway 97.

There are other road problems throughout Bend that city officials have neglected to improve. Most important is Reed Market Road from Highway 97 to 27th St. They city planned the upgrades but never seriously considered funding those improvements. Yet, it approved subdivision after subdivision along that route, adding hundreds of homes and thousands of vehicles to the mix.

Due to the Great Recession, some of those subdivisions are vacant. Add in large undeveloped tracts within city limits and it is ample proof that the city has plenty of buildable land for the next 20 years.

Also, vacancies in commercial real estate show that we won't need new land for many years because there is so little demand today for what is already here.

Bend also has other major infrastructure deficiencies that were neglected during the boom years, namely sewer and storm drains.

Slightly less than half the city is hooked to a sewer system with one main interceptor line, which is showing signs of failure. Unless the city takes steps to fix this huge problem while adding the rest of the city to the sewer system, no expansion should be allowed.

As for a storm-drainage system, Bend has none. It assesses each household a $4 monthly fee, but exacts nothing from developers through system development charges. Since newer Bend subdivisions have higher densities -- more houses packed together -- there are far more surfaces from which to collect water and send it out to the streets where catch basins overflow almost instantly. This, in turn, leads to flooding problems, particularly on the west side and it dumps all this tainted water into the Deschutes River.

Is that the kind of city the LCDC wants for this environmentally-friendly state? I don't think so.

Tell Bend to start over. In the meantime, tell it to fix its infrastructure problems now before extending those liabilities outward.

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