The urban renewal district, which would help subsidize infrastructure improvements at the airport, is something that the city badly wants to bolster its economic development efforts. However, the proposal requires the blessing of the county commission, and commissioners remain split over it. Earlier this month the commission tabled the discussion on the proposal indefinitely over its concerns about the impact on other taxing districts in the county, which would see their future revenues impacted by the urban renewal plan.
The Council and Commissioners debated heavily the budget for a proposed air traffic tower, emergency services and Urban Renewal Zone for the expanding businesses around the airport.
An economic debate erupted with council members squaring on the sides of both business and residences alike. At one point Commissioner Dennis Luke simply refused to discuss the topic.
Commissioner Mike Daley voiced his opinion in favor of the increased industrial base caused by a busy airport.
Advocates point out that the Bend Municipal Airport has grown drastically in the six years since its master plan was reviewed. Currently there are roughly 50,000 flights taking off from the airport a year.
"What I see at the Bend airport,"said Mr. Daley, "is a lot of really good jobs, a diversification of our economy."
Although his remarks brought a single loud applaud from a member of the attending public, the two governing bodies are sure to debate this topic for quite some time.
In addition to urban renewal councilors and commissioners tackled several other key projects with economic implications, including the options for the north Hwy. 97 Realignment. Since June of this year ODOT has been moving forward with studies and public hearing to come up with recommendations for the expansion of a combination of Hwy 97, 20 and 3rd Street.
"The focus is on the 97 corridor on the north end and we are looking particularly for safety issues," said Gary Farnsworth, area manager for ODOT.
The routes, labeled "Existing A", "East A" and "West A" are open for public viewing. They all have come under discussion and debate.
"This is clearly more than 20 and 97," said Commissioner Dennis Luke. "This is a system out here that includes 3rd Street."
Although there was no vote, route "East A" seemed to be in favor and looks to have the momentum to receive an ODOT recommendation later this week. Under this alternative, ODOT would relocate Hwy 97 from its existing path to an alignment parallel to the Burlington Northern rail line. According to a recent ODOT summary, the plan would improve traffic operations on state highways 97 and 20 on the Bend's north end while preserving access and traffic flow on local streets. Most importantly for the city of Bend, it would free up some of the light industrial land that the city is hoping to tap for economic development in and around Juniper Ridge. On the flip side, the new highway route would displace a significant number of existing businesses while adding noise pollution to residential areas along its path.
From one huge project to another, the working meeting switched to tackle the proposed UGB expansion. By September 29th the current alternatives will be narrowed down to one. That alternative will come in front of a joint public hearing involving both the city and county planning commissions on October 27th. Perhaps expecting some resistance from whichever plan does float to the top, Brain Shetterly, Long Range Planning Manager, prepared the attending members for long nights in late October.
"We are expecting that there will be enough interest in the topic, " stated Shetterly," that it may not be possible to hear from every body and close that hearing on Oct 27; allowing for the possibility of reconvening on the following evening to completely receive testimony on the preferred alternative."
The city has changed gears several times during the course of its work on the UGB expansion to accommodate its proposed plans at Juniper Ridge and the wishes of developers and landowners who jockeyed among themselves and against the city for inclusion in the new boundary in hopes of cashing in on the community's need for future residential and commercial land.
Jumping to a less debatable yet drastically less cheery topic, the meeting members were then briefed on the types of plans that Deschutes County and Bend have in mind for large scale disasters with the Deschutes County Fairgrounds proposed as a mega shelter for evacuees.
The meeting rounded out with an update on a proposed "win/win" public refueling station used by both the county and the City of Bend and an update on sustainability training and workshops.