Editorial: More urgency needed in UGB expansion


Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary problem is gaining urgency as optimism mounts that Central Oregon’s real estate market is on the mend.

Earlier this week at the 2013 Real Estate Forecast Breakfast in Bend, experts reported positive signs that Central Oregon’s market is on the upswing. That follows numerous indicators in recent months of improvements in the housing market.

The city, however, wants to wait until June 2017 to fix problems the state found in the city’s 2010 plan to expand its UGB. Under Oregon law, development is not permitted beyond the UGB, a border surrounding the city. Cities must prove the need for new boundaries to accommodate anticipated growth.

The state Land Conservation and Development Commission may decide as early as today if it will grant that extension from the current deadline, now only weeks away on May 2.

The city says it needs time to solve problems in water and sewer infrastructure before tackling the complex issues involved in its UGB. Those issues are “fundamental building blocks” for the city’s expansion, according to the letter City Manager Erik King wrote to the state. The letter also says failure to address those utility issues could harm residential and job growth as the economy recovers.

We have no disagreement with that. The problem is that failure to address the UGB could also harm the recovery if there’s a shortage of land needed for development within the UGB.

Given how slowly the UGB expansion process has proceeded so far, it’s not hard to see the city getting to that point if it has a deadline set four years out. Although we’re anxious to see prices recover their recession losses, an artificially short supply of land could force prices artificially high, creating a new and volatile housing bubble and risking damage to the recovering economy.

The city does need time to resolve water and sewer issues that would underlie a UGB expansion, but four years is too long to start the next round in this difficult process.