Bend discussing who to charge for planners' work

Stratedy, policy talk at council work session

BEND, Ore. - As the city of Bend sees strong growth returning, it's reconsidering how -- and who -- to assess planning fees paid by developers that also fund planners' work with the broader public. The topic is up for discussion by councilors at a work session next week.

Here's the full text of a backgrounder put out Friday by the city, ahead of the strategy discussion planned next Wednesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall:

One of the primary roles of the City of Bend is to regulate land development according to rules that balance the needs of private property owners with the desires of the community and City Council.

The city's Planning Division is where developers turn to get land-use permits processed, for a fee. It's also where the general community can get answers to development and zoning questions at no charge.

The way general front counter services get funded may soon change. A discussion of a planning fee strategy is scheduled to begin at the May 21 City Council work session.

General planning services can be any number of things. For example, prospective property buyers can find out from the Planning Division staff what could potentially happen on lands on and surrounding a property that is for sale.

Or, before developers get approval to proceed on a project, the planning staff sends notices to surrounding properties.

"Then you contact Planning's front desk and you can start asking questions, ‘Is this going to affect traffic? How many homes are going in there?'" said Ruth Zdanowicz, an active member of the Summit West Neighborhood Association.

Planning staff helped Christine Walsh, a Northwest Crossing resident, understand the land-use process and achieve a group of neighbors' goals. Walsh turned to the planning staff when she found out a developer was proposing to build a mini-storage facility that she and neighbors felt was incompatible with the surrounding area.

"The planners there did a good job of informing us without compromising their responsibility to the developer," Walsh said. "I don't want them to be on the developers' or the neighbors' side. They negotiated the fine line of informing people about rules and regulations."

About 25 percent of planning staff time is allocated to providing general services at the permit center front counter or over the phone.

Funding for that general service currently comes through planning permit fees paid by developers when they submit land-use applications to the city for applications such as a site plan review or a zone change.

City policy says the cost of reviewing applications and issuing land-use permits must be funded by permit fees. But there is no city policy about paying for general, front counter services.

Some in the development community have argued that it is not fair to charge general service costs to the permit fees.  Others have argued that the general services provided by the permit center front counter benefit the development community. 

The Bend City Council will review this policy during upcoming budget discussions with staff.

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