Bend, Ore., takes more time to plan expansion

Reduced staff, slowing growth make Central Oregon town hesitant

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BEND, Ore. — The city of Bend, a hot spot for growth in Oregon in the decades leading to the Great Recession, expects to take as many as four more years to fix problems in its plan to expand city boundaries.

One of the problems, Mayor Jim Clinton said, is that the city laid off a lot of planners during the slump that began in 2008. And he says the city might scale back expansion plans.

The state Land Conservation and Development Commission voted Thursday to give the city the additional time. Three years ago, it rejected the city's plan to increase the land within its urban growth boundary by 8,500 acres.

In Oregon, the boundary is the limit around a city beyond which developments such as subdivisions and sewer systems are not allowed.

Four years seems like a long time to finish the changes, but "we don't have many long-range planners anymore," Clinton said.

The recession and housing bust hit hard in Bend and the rest of Central Oregon, where a sunny, high-desert environment, and access to skiing and other outdoor recreation fueled explosive growth.

In May, the city told the state agency it has taken longer than expected to develop plans for how the city's water and sewer systems will develop.

The City Council plans to re-evaluate how much Bend needs to expand, Clinton said, and it might rewrite the expansion proposal to call for more infill development and redevelopment.

The city faces steep costs to maintain and upgrade its sewer, street and water systems, and it is cheaper to serve denser development.

"I think it's certain that the next UGB proposal will be smaller than the last one," he said. "How much smaller and exactly where remains to be seen. I don't think that the kind of city that was envisioned in those days is the kind of city anybody envisions now."