Sound a little nuts to you? Yeah, us too. But that's what the Bend Planning Commission has recommended, and what the city council will be debating later this month.
As late as last summer the commission was contemplating bringing a far more modest expanse - about 4,900 acres - inside the UGB. But then the real estate / development / builder lobby spoke up - including some real heavy hitters like Brooks Resources, the Day family (Hooker Creek) and the Miller family (Miller Tree Farm).
When those people talk, Bend city government listens. The council instructed the planning commission to add more acreage. A lot more.
The size of the expansion is predicated on an assumption that Bend's population will continue to grow at the feverish pace set during the housing bubble. That assumption is patently ridiculous now, with the economy careening off a cliff and something like a year and a half's worth of housing inventory sitting unsold on the Bend market.
Size matters, but the proposed UGB expansion is a loser for other reasons too.
For one thing, the city originally contemplated bringing in more land to the east, which would be relatively inexpensive to provide with services such as sewers and roads - an estimated $62,000 per acre. But then it changed perspective and decided to bring in more land to the north and west of the present UGB boundary - land that will cost roughly $89,000 per acre to serve.
Why the change? Well, it happens that the aforementioned heavy hitters own a lot of land on the northwest side that they'd like to develop. But that's pure coincidence, we're sure.
Infrastructure expenses for the northwest will include two major new sewer lines (estimated cost: $40 million) and another bridge across the Deschutes (estimated cost: God only knows). The heavy hitters have served notice on the city that they don't intend to pay for it; they expect much of it to be covered with user fees and city bonds. In other words, leave the taxpayers to pick up the tab.
If the city goes ahead and approves the UGB expansion as presently drawn it could run into legal roadblocks. The state Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) has expressed strong reservations about its size, its location and the process used in deciding what land to include. ODOT is worried about big new commercial development along Highways 97 and 20.
The city could save itself a lot of headaches, and save the taxpayers a bundle of money, by sending this monstrosity back to the drawing board. But with the Central Oregon Builders Association's pet councilors coming on board, we have little hope of that.
Just the same, there's nothing to stop us from giving this crazy plan THE BOOT - and we hereby do.