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More on North Bethany Subsidized Development

Jun 21


I got so involved in writing about the history of San Jose last week that I neglected to make some important points about the planned development in North Bethany, near Portland, that set me off on that rant. Fortunately, some of these points are brought out in an article in the Beaverton Valley Times.

First, planners are projecting that North Bethany will have about 10 homes per acre, which is fairly dense considering that a lot of acres will be devoted to streets, parks, etc. “Net” density — the density of the land actually used for residential — is generally about 25 to 50 percent denser than “gross” density, which means planners are thinking of average lot sizes of 3,000 to 3,400 square feet. Nearby developments built in the 1970s average 6 units per acre, while more recent developments have 7 to 8 units per acre.

At 10 homes per acre planners project a total population of as many as 10,000 people, which would be 8,000 people per square mile for the 800-acre parcel. That’s far denser than most suburban communties in the Portland area.

Is this really the density that people want to live in? Or is it the density that is most marketable given that the urban-growth boundary has driven up land prices? Or would a lower density be more marketable, but planners want to mandate higher densities and they are willing to subsidize the development to do it?

“Urban renewal, through the provision of tax increment financing, can provide for capital improvements such as parks, streets, parking garages and transit systems that stimulate private investment and attract new businesses, jobs and residents,” a consultant told planners. Well, duh! Just why does any place in the Portland area need to “stimulate private investment”? Are developers chomping at the bit to develop the North Bethany area? Of course they are, but they probably would not develop it as dense as planners want.

I am glad to see that the Beaverton Valley Times reported concerns of the local fire district that this development would impose fire protection costs on the district without adding to their revenues. Since, for the first 20 years at least, planners expect to spend all the incremental property taxes collected from the development on subsidies to the development, the fire district will go hungry. Same is true for other districts in the area, though the impact on schools will be lower because the state supplements school budgets with income tax revenue.

In the end, this is simply an example of government overplanning an area. Just open the area to development and take your hands off! What you will get will be a lot better (and probably more affordable in the long run) than what planners are seeking.


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Reprinted from The Antiplanner