July 09, 2001 11:00 pm

For those who dont like growth, weve got some advice for you: Youd better go find a corner of Oregon where almost nobody lives or change the way you feel about more people.

Why? A study by the University of Colorados Center for the American West is projecting that the 11 western states will have 48 million new residents by 2050.

That means the western states will have more population than the entire country of Spain currently has.

They are projecting that 26 million acres, roughly the size of Cuba, will be developed during that time.

If you were thinking of escaping to California, forget it. California will have 66 million people living within the borders of that sprawling state.

And dont expect to run to some rural place to hide. Again, according to the studies, much of the new growth will come to rural areas you know, people trying to get away from all that urban sprawl.

Isnt it fortunate that former Gov. Tom McCall and the Oregon Legislature decided to enact our current land use laws?

Because Oregon has a set comprehensive plan in place for our 280 communities and minimal limits on the size of acreage needed to be a farm dweller, we might be spared some of the sprawl.

The bad news for those who dont like growth: Expect many of those 280 rural communities to see some significant growth during the next 50 years.

After all, most of the states larger urban areas have already been overrun by new dwellers and the rest of us will have to accommodate our fair share.

What we would suggest is that communities such as La Grande stop arguing about whether we should grow and instead start developing plans to perhaps double the size of our population.

That means looking at our infrastructure needs and our weaknesses.

Will we have enough schools? How will our roads hold up? The questions are endless, but now is the time to start planning.

Unless you plan on living in Antarctica, get used to more people.

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