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State of the County Address // Recap

Courtesy of Tor Hanson, Special Projects

Deschutes County Commissioners Tammy Baney, Tony DeBone, and newly installed Phil Henderson took the opportunity to give their view of what is happening in Deschutes County at the Bend Chamber’s popular monthly What’s Brewing event in July. Overall, the three commissioners agreed the state of the county is “Good” or “Good Plus.”

The presentation centered on the unprecedented growth the county is currently experiencing. Deschutes County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, something that is putting pressure on the county’s finances.
“The biggest drivers in our decision-making has to do with growth,” said DeBone. “When we went around this four years ago, we were trying to deal with growth. Now, everything we deal with is what happens when you have growth.”
It is no secret Bend is struggling with transportation infrastructure issues, but growth is impacting the road system outside the city boundaries as well. “Some of our county transportation system is experiencing a 50 percent increase in traffic volume,” said Baney.

It is no secret Bend is struggling with transportation infrastructure issues, but growth is impacting the road system outside the city boundaries as well. “Some of our county transportation system is experiencing a 50 percent increase in traffic volume,” said Baney.

Commissioners noted the recent transportation bill passed in legislation will funnel money into the local economy for road projects. Amongst those in Deschutes County, the Old Bend-Redmond Highway is slated for upgrades, as well as South Canal Boulevard and Deschutes Market Road. The Cooley/Hwy 97 intersection is also on deck.
The issue of workforce housing is also weighing heavy on the minds of the commissioners. “It’s a big topic and has been so for the last five years. It’s talked about a lot in Bend, but we all feel strongly it is a county-wide issue,” said Henderson. “We have a unique problem in Central Oregon. We have a lot of land around our cities that are zoned Restricted Farm Use. It looks good but a lot of land does not have any soil.”
The county commissioners are trying to lobby for changes. “We are asking if there is a way we can have more regional flexibility or have local ability to affect the decisions so it is not run through the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).

The county commissioners are trying to lobby for changes. “We are asking if there is a way we can have more regional flexibility or have local ability to affect the decisions so it is not run through the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).

Henderson admits the legislation effort does not seem to be going anywhere. “We are precluding a large portion of our population from having housing and it’s not something one town or city can solve.”

Katy Brooks, Bend Chamber President and CEO, was first out with a question to the county commissioners. She asked what is the top incentive for doing business in Deschutes County versus other places in Oregon that the Commissioners encounter most.
Aside from a beautiful climate and a culture of engaged citizens, Commissioner Baney added, “We have to make sure that we have a workforce pipeline available to meet their needs and that we have develop-able land to be able to expand and move businesses here,” said Baney. As far as economic incentives, we do have a business loan fund we offer businesses through Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO).
Nathan Hovecamp with Central Oregon LandWatch asked the commissioners to describe one positive aspect or outcome of the state-wide land use system. Preceding the question, Hovecamp mentioned, “Land use goals include citizen involvement, preservation of agricultural and rural land, and orderly and planned development. It is easy to use it as a punching bag, as a driver of the cost of land, or state versus local control.”

“Land use goals include citizen involvement, preservation of agricultural and rural land, and orderly and planned development. It is easy to use it as a punching bag, as a driver of the cost of land, or state versus local control.”

Approaching the question as a homebuilder, Henderson said:“We have over 240 acres of land outside the city of Bend with solar panels. But we can’t build homes because the land is zoned EFU, Exclusive Farm Use,” ended Henderson.
Baney added that there are a lot of folks who are farming rocks in some part of Deschutes County. There is a growing concern of an east side versus west side conflict between the counties on the east side of the Cascades and Legislators in Salem.
“It is a different world. We need to be heard in Salem,” said Baney. “I know a lot of Legislators (in other parts of the state) have never had the chance to see the challenges of growth and hear from (this) community, especially given the turnover with terms. We need to make sure we are present and carry the voice of our constituency.”

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