Home Opinion Editorials PROJECTION SHOULD BE BASED ON REALITY
PROJECTION SHOULD BE BASED ON REALITY
There appear to be two kinds of thinking when it comes to the number of people who might be living in Union County and the cities that make up the county.
LA GRANDE planner Mike Hyde told the the county commissioners last week that La Grande needs a growth rate of 1 percent in order to justify a new urban growth boundary and attract new commercial and industrial business. Island City wanted and received a 5 percent growth projection from the county. The county planners are projecting a 1 percent growth rate for the county between now and 2020. That differs from what historic population figures would show for local growth rates. Over the past 20 years growth in Union County has been .04 percent.
Hyde told commissioners that the reason for a 1 percent and 5 percent growth projection is to allow La Grande and Island City to expand the urban growth boundary. Expanding the UGB along Island Avenue would do little to help industrial business. Currently there is a very limited amount of industrial land available for a manufacturing type of business that might want to locate in Union County. A considerable amount of land that could accommodate industrial development is available between Highway 30 and Gekeler Avenue. The City of La Grande has purchased approximately 15 acres for a business park. The land surrounding the proposed business park was recently rezoned from heavy industrial to light industrial. There are over 100 acres of land in the area that could be purchased for future industrial growth some within the UGB and some that would have to be brought into the UGB. The property that has been known as Baum Industrial Park is almost all sold. Union County Economic Development Corporation still holds title to about 12 acres and Fleetwood owns another 20 acres that has not yet been developed.
UNION COUNTY'S HISTORICAL growth pattern and future growth projections should match closer than the difference between .04 and 1 percent. Trying to decide who is right and who is wrong means a difference of almost 3,000 people. Except for a few pockets of dramatic growth east of the Cascade Range, the eastern part of Oregon has been in a growth drought over the past 30 years. We might be able to see Union County growing .05 to .06 percent annually, but it seems more like a fairy tale to believe that Union County will grow 1 percent annually and Island City would grow 5 percent annually in the next 18 years.
The county commission will probably disregard the public input and opposition to the growth numbers and try and get the state to accept the 1 percent growth rate. That would be a mistake. Expanding the urban growth boundary to accommodate commercial businesses is the wrong reason. The only reason at this point to expand the urban growth boundary is to increase the availability of industrial lands so that we can create jobs that will drive up the average income and create more money to spend on goods and services.