This week's letter comes from former city councilor John Schubert who asks a question that's been on a lot of people's minds lately: "What's with the massive urban growth boundary expansion proposal?"
An advocate of smart growth and alternative transportation planning, Schubert questions whether the city's past subsidies to the building community have led to the current fiscal crisis in Bend. Thanks for the letter, John. You can claim your prize for this week's winning letter at the Source headquarters, 704 NW Georgia.
I recently I flew from Frankfurt, Germany to Moscow and marveled at how
clearly the land use patterns unfolded below me. Compact town led to
open agricultural land led to forest land, and then the pattern
repeated, over and over, mile after mile. No rural sprawl as in
Deschutes County; no fuzzy boundary between city and farmland as in
Bend; no homes in the forest. Later in the trip I remarked on my flight
observations to a German acquaintance I met. I asked why he thought
this was so. Without a second hesitation, he said, "It is most
certainly because to do anything else is incredibly wasteful of
government money and natural resources."
I was stunned that an ordinary citizen understood this without blinking an eye. This argument of economic and resource efficiency should be well understood by the business community, especially if they are called upon to pay their way in land development. I was aghast to read that Bend developers expect the entire community to subsidize their developments at the fringe of the city. I suggest that too-many-to-count taxpayer subsidies to growth are the biggest cause of skyrocketing living costs in Bend and the current city fiscal crisis. They have led to increasing property taxes, increasing utility costs, increasing housing costs, increasing transportation costs. And all the while, we still haven't figured out how to adequately maintain our transportation system, provide adequate affordable housing, fund schools to provide reasonable class sizes.... Until we get a handle on these things, it makes no sense to me to dramatically expand the UGB and cause more inefficient land use and subsidized runaway growth.
John Schubert, former planning commissioner and city councilor