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Media Salon Rides Again

Smart talk about smart growth


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On Monday evening, the Source hosted its third "Media Salon," a monthly event where our editor, Phil Busse, goes all Oprah-like and Q&As with local experts. It is our attempt to bring our newspaper more to life, and to create a forum where readers can interact. You know, make our news reporting all relevant and tangible.

Our most recent edition focused on "smart growth," and asked the question "What will Bend look like in five years?" Below are a few excerpts from our most recent Media Salon; stay tuned to our blog for the release of Media Salon podcasts.

Our next live Media Salon will be held Aug. 12 at Broken Top Bottle Shop, 7 pm.

Marcia Hilber, principal Realtor with Allison James Estates and Homes

PB: You're here to tell us everything is OK, right?

MH: Depends on your perspective. It's a very good time to sell. There are lots of buyers and low inventory for buyers. It's very challenging for buyers. With low inventory they can put in an offer on several houses because there are so many other people looking. It's already exclusive, though.

PB: Was the bust a blessing in disguise?

MH: The growth was unsuitable. For the thousands and thousands who lost their homes and went through short sale and financial distress because of that, it was very hard; we don't want to replay that. But, in the big picture, it was a good thing.

PB: Is there a chance that some other towns will develop as well? Redmond?

MH: During the boom, there was the Bend market, then Redmond was following. They built a community place, art walk, outdoor music venue...When the real-estate market crashed in Bend, Redmond was right behind. Redmond is having a second chance, not to catch up to Bend, but to develop their own community there. It's not going to be the alternative. It's going to be its own destination place, like Prineville.

Mel Oberst, community development director

PB: You started your current position in 2005, which is like saying you started at the top of the roller coaster before it plummeted.

MO: When I got here we couldn't issue the building permits fast enough, and within 18 months we were laying people off. We reduced the size of the department from 85 to 32.

PB: But, for a while there, the foot was on the accelerator.

MO: Bend is a suburban community. It grew that way very quickly for the last 20 years.People didn't have to come here; they picked the lifestyle. They like a nice house on a good-sized lot with maybe a few pine trees. We weren't ahead of the curve, though, we were reacting to the growth and weren't doing a lot of advance planning. The plan we had was developed in 1996-98, and the people who produced the plan saw a different future for Bend; they didn't anticipate the rapid growth that we had. They zoned most of Bend for low-density residential.

PB: How do you correct for a plan that's in place?

MO: Bend is at a threshold. We're almost 80,000 people. We have to make a decision about who we want to be when we grow up. If we want Bend to be more of an urban center, then we need to consider an increase in density. We don't have a viable transit system because we don't have the density for transit to justify that infrastructure.

PB: What can we do to plan for reducing carbon emissions?

MO:I look at it not as discouraging cars but encouraging other uses. By increasing density we can encourage transit. We've identified bus routes and we can look at increasing the density of those areas. One problem between the east and the west is we don't have good crosstown connection. Bend is a suburban community with low density. Disincentives to use a car wouldn't work in Bend; it won't be well-received, and it won't be successful.

Mayor Jim Clinton

PB: What are some of the issues you believe we need to deal with right now for the sake of the future? Sleeping giants?

JC: Most cities are facing similar issues. It's planning for the growth that's going to happen and paying for the infrastructure to support that growth and responding to the realities of the 21st century instead of playing the same game you would have played 20 years ago. I want Bend to be on the leading edge of the curve, anticipating what's going to be happening rather than responding to the past. Another reality is climate change; that's of particular interest to me. Building a compact city where infrastructures are not so exaggerated, that would be dumb growth.

PB: What seeds can you plant to manage carbon dioxide emissions?

JC:Outside of Portland, Bend and Oregon are not like the big Eastern cities where the mayor actually has some power. I have one vote on the city council. Keep in mind that the built environment (in Bend) is controlled by the private sector. You can have the most enlightened city council in the world but you need a private sector that is enlightened as well. We need to figure out how to grow, where to grow and how to pay for the infrastructure.

PB: Is this a lull before the storm? Will Bend feel different in five years?

JC: It won't feel different but it will have plans that are specific to what the future will hold. We have a huge opportunity. That's why I wanted to be on the council. If you're in a town that isn't growing, you can't respond to the world that is changing.


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