Bend’s zone map and comprehensive plan don’t line up. They conflict.
That causes problems. It causes confusion about what can be built where. But the Bend City Council picked a way to fix it that may give residents less chance for input about what goes where in Bend.
It is easier to understand the conflicts between the city’s zone map and the comprehensive plan with an example. For instance, let’s say there is a proposal to build an apartment building near a neighborhood. The neighbors could look at the zoning and gear up to block the building, because it doesn’t appear to be allowed under the neighborhood’s zoning. But if the neighbors looked at the city’s comprehensive plan, the building would be permitted. So what are Bend residents supposed to think?
The answer is: The comprehensive plan rules. “We conclude that a comprehensive plan is the controlling land use planning instrument for a city,” the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 1975. “Upon passage of a comprehensive plan, a city assumes a responsibility to effectuate that plan and conform prior conflicting zoning ordinances to it.” But in Bend, zoning and the plan still conflict in some places.
City staff told the council on Wednesday that it had several options fix it. The council only really debated two:
1. Sync the plan and Bend’s zoning in one swoop.
2. Pick priority areas to sync. For instance, the city could prioritize the opportunity zones that were identified in the urban growth boundary expansion. The idea behind those zones is that some areas — such as the Third Street corridor, or between Colorado and Wilson avenues and others — are ripe for intense development. It avoids changes that may frustrate and anger people in neighborhoods.
The council chose Option 1 — with Councilors Nathan Boddie and Barb Campbell voting against it. Many representatives of the city’s neighborhood associations opposed that option. “...(I)t is abundantly clear that Bend residents may be denied the opportunity to comment on rezoning applications, on a case by case basis, that could alter the character of their neighborhood(s),” they wrote in a letter.
The council needs to better explain to its residents how the best option is apparently one with less public input.