Bend needs a road bond. The city should not create a tax targeted on homes in the areas of the new urban growth boundary expansion to pay for roads.
Councilor Bill Moseley brought up the possibility Wednesday of a targeted system development fee. He didn’t demand that’s what the city should do. He asked the city to investigate the idea. The City Council agreed and directed staff to explore that option, as well as others.
Moseley’s wants to help with Bend’s housing crisis. One fix is to accelerate homebuilding. But that will be slowed in the newly added areas of Bend’s UGB, if the area doesn’t get a road network. The city does not have the money to do it.
By 2032 the city has estimated it is going to need to spend some $260 million in the city plus another $149 to connect to the areas added in the UGB expansion. Those numbers are rough and they are from information the city gave us in February. They can be refined and tweaked. It may be that not every thing on the city’s wishlist needs to be there. But the thing that is clear is that it’s a pile of money the city does not have.
Bend has needs all across the city. It has potholes. It has congestion problems. It has needs for new roads and extensions to serve the new areas. Voters rejected a gas tax would have helped. The city should try again with a gas tax, but it’s still too soon.
Whacking UGB developers and homebuyers with a special SDC is not fair. It may feel good because — as the saying goes — growth should pay for itself. But what it will do is drive up the cost of housing in the very area that Bend is hoping to add more housing to reduce the housing crisis.
There is no painless way to raise revenue to do infrastructure projects. With a road bond, voters, at least, know exactly what projects they are paying for. And they get to choose to vote to support it or not. A supplemental SDC could be added without any vote of the public.
The City Council should give voters a chance to pay for what they want to improve Bend’s roads.