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By Alice Perry Linker
Observer Staff Writer
After calculating and discussing percentages and real numbers for nearly an hour, the Union County Planning Commission voted Monday to compromise on an Island City request to set its population at more than 3,500 by 2020.
The compromise Â— a projected increase of 5 percent per year Â— will take the city's population to about 2,500 by 2020 but keep the county's overall population projection for 2020 at about 30,000, or a growth rate of 1 percent per year, up from the U.S. Census figure of 24,550.
Island City had asked the county to approve a growth rate of 6 percent per year, but in order to reach that number, the county would have had to reduce the population projections for the other cities, something the planning commission was unwilling to do.
The commission is, instead, projecting a much lower growth rate, .15 percent per year, for the unincorporated areas of the county.
"This way, we're not pitting one municipality against another," said planning commission member Doc Savage. "We're not putting undue limitation on any municipality."
The planning commission's recommendation will go to the county commissioners for final approval. During a hearing earlier this month, several people opposed the 1 percent per year growth rate projection, stating that the county should more reasonably expect the .39 percent per year growth, projected by the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.
Planning Commission member Dick McDaniel, the only member participating who voted against the Island City increase, said the projection would more than double the size of the city in less than 20 years.
Island City officials have said they can accommodate another 2,000 people inside the city limits.
Oregon counties have been ordered by the Legislature to project their population growths over a 20-year period. Savage called the process "highly speculative."
"I've been attempting to measure what the Legislature had in mind," he said. "With a small base population it's difficult."
Savage, who said he lived in Redmond during the 1960s, said the reality of population growth there far outpaced the area's history and the projections that were being made more than 30 years ago.
Commission chairman John VanSchoonhoven agreed that fluctuations could not always be predicted for a small population. He said, however, he has seen no evidence that a 1 percent per year increase "will degrade our land use laws."
Cities' populations are a major factor in establishing urban growth boundaries and determining the level of municipal services, such as water, sewer and transportation.