Times are tough all over, and they're even tougher in Central Oregon than in a lot of other places. So we don't blame Bend realtors and builders for being scared.
We don't even blame them for trying to use these tough times to push their own agenda. But when they do it with bogus statistics and misleading rhetoric, that's a different story.
The Bend Metro Park and Recreation District is taking a look at the formula it uses to calculate Systems Development Charges, or SDCs, which are fees levied on new home construction to pay for things like roads, sewers and (in this case) parks. It's a routine move; state law, and local ordinance, requires the district to do it periodically.
To hear the screams from local realtors and builders, though, you'd think the district was proposing to confiscate their first-born children and sell them into slavery.
"I question the timing and necessity of this enormous SDC hike that will make housing less affordable in Bend," reads a form letter that local realtors have been sending to the park district.
Okay, in the first place, the park board isn't considering an SDC increase - it's only considering a possible change in the formula that could possibly lead to an SDC increase.
The charge by realtors and builders that the park district ignored their concerns is also bogus. Both the Central Oregon Builders Association and the Central Oregon Association of Realtors had representatives on the subcommittee that considered the formula change. Oddly, those representatives supported it but then reversed themselves when COBA and COAR came out against it.
COBA and COAR also are peddling the claim that SDCs and other fees on new homes in Bend amount to $30,000 per house. A more realistic figure is $23,000. Also dubious is their claim that 60% of the new homes built in Bend are sold to people who already live here. (As one park district official said, "The question then is where are all these new people who move to Bend living?")
COBA and COAR are saying the population estimate being used by the district is too high. Curiously, these are the same people who were saying the population estimates used by the City of Bend to determine the size of the Urban Growth Boundary expansion were too low.
Finally, COBA and COAR and their mouthpieces on The Bulletin's editorial board are slamming the park district's planned new headquarters, charging that it's an irresponsible extravagance in these hard times. The new HQ has been in the works for five years; only now have the builders and realtors decided to use it as a club against the district.
Increasing park SDCs might or might not be the right thing to do at this point in Bend's history. The park district board will have to decide that question, and we hope it will do it honestly and intelligently. In the meantime, here's THE BOOT to COAR and COBA for running a lobbying campaign that's neither honest nor intelligent.