Blighted Farmland

I had a chuckle yesterday morning when reading in the O about the opposition simmering in response to Washington County’s consideration of forming an Urban Renewal district to pay for roads, sewers and other infrastructure for the North Bethany UGB expansion area.

I’ve actually been party to discussions at MPAC about using urban renewal as a tool to advance development of centers (unlike Portland, which is very close to the legal limit on the percent of the City in districts, many local governments have not utilized this tool extensively) and it’s not an unreasonable strategy.

But the chuckle came on two fronts:

1) When Portland forms a district, it’s typically the county and school district that complain about losing revenue. Here it’s the fire and parks districts, since those are not city functions as they are in Portland. So you have more governments to argue with :-)

2) The definition of blight has now apparently been extended to include “doesn’t have roads”. I’m beginning to agree with the cynics who say anything can be declared blighted. Maybe we can created a definition of blighted for not having bike lanes and curb extensions :-)

But after the chuckle there’s a more serious point I want to make: adding infrastructure is not free just because you’re on the edge. The federal subsidies that used to make this easy are gone, and local government has to look deep into its own pockets to fund the cost of growth. Generally growth in centers, where sewer lines and roads are shorter, because densities are higher, is going to be the more cost-effective way to go.

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