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Take This Plan And Shove It: DLCD gives Bend's growth plan a formal rejection 

It's been five plus years in the making and it's apparently going to be at least a few more months - if not years - before the proposed urban growth boundary expansion in Bend is finalized. The city got the formal rejection letter earlier this week from state land use regulators at the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) whose staff had long voiced skepticism about the scope of Bend's proposed urban expansion. In its 156-page rejection letter, or 'remand' in planning speak, DLCD said that while an expansion of Bend's urban area is merited given the growth patterns (another 40,000 residents are expected in the city over the next 20 years) the current proposal from city staff is simply too big - four square miles too big by DLCD's calculations. In addition to the city's proposed land expansion, DLCD staff also sent the city back to the drawing board for its accompanying facilities plan.

At this point it's not clear how the city will respond to the DLCD's rebuff. In a letter to the city, DLCD Director Richard Whitman said his agency is ready to work with the city on a plan that conforms to state land use law. However, city councilors have the option of appealing the decision to the citizen body that oversees DLCD's work, the Land Conservation and Development Commission. That move would likely entail a significant amount of additional staff time and city resources, said Jim Clinton, a city councilor, who opposed the initial plan as submitted. Clinton said he favors working with the state on a scaled back plan that reduces the amount of residential land in the plan - something that may be feasible given the development drought in Bend. For example, Clinton said a large scale project in northwest Bend spearheaded by Brooks Resources appears to have been shelved removing the need for several hundred acres of new housing lands along the Deschutes River corridor north of town. However, it also creates some additional challenges since the city's entire west side growth plan is predicated on the ability to work with a developer on a bridge crossing to extend sewer service across the river.

More immediately, Clinton said the city needs to decide whether it's willing to conform with DLCD's model for metropolitan sized communities where the agency wants to see increased housing densities that reduce the pressure to sprawl. That kind of plan would require more high density housing along transportation corridors and smaller homes on smaller lots, rather than the current plan which essentially reproduces Bend's current growth trends outside the city. But the larger problem might be the idea that the city council and staff pushed a plan that was predicated on a faulty model - one that assumed astronomical growth out into the foreseeable future, said Clinton.

"Clearly when most of that work was done and most of the testimony was given from people who weighed in on (the plan) it was a different era," Clinton said.

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