Bend's next super subdivision? Most folks have lost track of how long the Bend City Council has been working to expand the city's UGB - long enough for the anachronistic term "UGB" to actually resonate with any partially informed observer of local politics. Earlier this week the city council put the finishing touches on what it hopes will be a blueprint for the next 20 years of growth in Bend - a roughly 8,500-acre expansion of the city's geographic footprint which is intended to add more land for housing and commercial development.
By a 4-2 vote councilors opted to finalize the plan known as Alternative 4A, which Upfront likes to think of as the "kitchen sink" alternative - as in it includes everything that landowners and developers wanted plus the kitchen sink for good measure.
The plan has no shortage of critics, including some skeptical state regulators that have balked at the size of the land grab, which they see as a recipe for sprawl.
Councilor Peter Gramlich was one of two councilors who voted against the plan at a special meeting Monday night. (Jim Clinton cast the other no-vote.) Gramlich, who narrowly lost a bid for re-election in November, said he couldn't reconcile the final plan with his desire to limit growth and transportation impacts on Bend's westside, where the council opted to include large swaths of land owned by prominent developers including the Miller lumber family, The Coats family (Shevlin Sand and Gravel) and the Day family (Hooker Creek). Gramlich and Clinton had tried to steer the council away from the wholesale west side expansion late last year only to lose on a 4-3 vote with outgoing councilor Linda Johnson joining the losing effort.
During a recent interview potential swing voter Bruce Abernethy said he realized that his UGB stance was unpopular with some of his supporters, but said his experience on the council had taught him that an overly strict UGB leads to high land prices and a lack of affordable housing while also constricting economic development opportunities. A skeptic might point out that housing prices have plummeted as of late with no change in the amount of land supply. Oh well...
Meanwhile, Gramlich, who will offer farewell comments on Wednesday night's council swearing in ceremony for new councilors, said he thinks the state will send the UGB plan back to Bend over a host of issues, including how the city prioritized which lands to bring in.
Upfront guesses that the new council, which is well stocked with candidates who benefited from the generosity of the local building and real estate industry - as well as the Bend Chamber - will hold the line on the ambitious UGB plan, regardless of the cost - legally or logically.
Pink Slips at Bend Living
Wounded, but not dead...Upfront isn't going to grave dance on any of the other local publications that have suffered in the downturn. But the recession and local real estate collapse have hit some folks harder than others. Such appears to be the case at once high-flying Bend Living, which handed out pink slips to its entire sales and editorial staff in mid-December according to a former top staffer. The future of the local lifestyle glossy that was heavy on custom homes and other trappings of "high-end" living is less than clear. Former editor Kevin Max said he and several other staffers attempted to purchase the magazine from Cutter but that their offer was declined. A former Bulletin business editor, Max said he has already launched a new local publishing company with a focus on sustainability and renewable resources.
When reached by Upfront, Cutter said she has several suitors for the magazine and will deliver the Jan-Feb issue this week. She said the magazine is returning to a quarterly publication schedule and already starting work on a spring issue, despite the lay offs.
"Bend Living is not dead. We're alive; we've been wounded a bit, but we're moving forward," Cutter said.
Editor's note: The original version of this story stated that the "entire" staff had been laid off. In fact, the editorial and sales staff were let go. Publisher Erik Franks as well as several support staff remain on the payroll according to Cutter.
Hyundai's Return Policy
Moving beyond the Bend city limits (expanded or not) Upfront was interested to learn of the latest sign of the Economic End of Times. This one comes from Korean car manufacturer Hyundai, which is taking incentives one step further with a one-year return policy on its vehicles. While it doesn't cover coffee spills or buyer's remorse, it does allow buyers to return their vehicles if they lose their job. That's a grim commentary on the state of the economy if Upfront has ever heard one.
Is It Self Serve?
Fans of Discovery's Animal Planet channel are probably familiar with the story of the Sea Shepherds, a granola munching crew of eco-do-gooders who have been dogging a fleet of Japanese whale "Research" vessels across several thousand miles of international waters with a documentary crew in tow. The Shepherds recently broke from the fleet to make a necessary refueling run. Tired of being dogged by the eco-saboteurs who have lobbed stink bombs and boarded the Japanese vessels, the Japanese government has asked Australia, Chile and New Zealand to deny the Sea Shepherds access to their ports for refueling.
As of this week, the Shepherds were steaming for Australia probably banking on the fact that their ship is dubbed "The Steve Irwin" will curry some favor with the Aussies.
While Japan insists that its fleet of ships is simply "researching," there is ample evidence to show that it's just a thinly veiled whaling expedition.
You may not agree with their methods, but hey you got to give it up for this new brand of eco crusaders, hitting the high seas beats chaining yourself to a tree any day. For those interested, you can catch up with the Sea Shepherds Friday nights at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet.