The director of the city of Albany's Public Works, Engineering and Community Development Division asked the Albany City Council at its Monday work session to look toward the future.
The presentation from Jeff Blaine centered on the city’s growth over the next 20 years and necessary steps to expand its urban growth boundary (UGB).
“I wanted to try and center some attention on long-range planning because I think we’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we don’t think about these things proactively and I wanted to show you that we’re trying to do what we can to get the ball moving,” Blaine told the councilors.
As the city’s population grows, several developmental issues have to be taken into account, including water infrastructure, housing capacity and available land inventory.
Albany’s current urban growth boundary is 13,900 acres and, according to Blaine, can support approximately 110,000 residents.
The latest Portland State University estimates show Albany’s population at approximately 53,000. PSU's long-term estimates show the city’s population reaching 68,000 by the year 2035 and just over 90,000 by 2067.
“These are obvious questions when you look at this data,” Blaine said. “Where are these people going to live? Where are they going to work? How are we going to serve them with schools and police and fire and water and sewer and transportation facilities? There are a lot of questions to answer and long-range planning provides all these answers.”
Blaine said the last significant conversation about long-range planning took place in 2013. Several studies necessary to move forward with urban growth boundary expansion were last completed 15 years ago.
“You might ask me, ‘Well, what are you guys doing about that?’" Blaine said. “And the answer would be, ‘We haven’t really been doing anything about that for several years.'"
However, Blaine said, staff was working toward long-range planning by compiling a list of necessary steps, including the completion of several studies.
One of those studies, a buildable lands inventory, is an assessment of the city’s available land to accommodate growth. The city would also have to complete an economic opportunity analysis, which evaluates economic trends in the city and potential for economic growth; and a housing needs analysis, a report that examines the type of existing housing in the city and what housing may be needed in the future.
Blaine told the council that a major hurdle in completing these studies was lack of resources.
“We don’t have resources allocated to the planning division to fund these types of studies and we used to have a staff member that was responsible for long-range planning, and we’ve cut that position through the budget process over the years,” Blaine said.
The city has several staff vacancies that Blaine said he hopes to take advantage of by using the monthly savings to finance long-range planning goals.
“I’m trying to do the equivalent of getting the dimes and nickels out from under the couch cushions and fund this buildable lands inventory,” he said, noting that staff has already issued a request for quotes for a consultant to complete the study.
Councilor Mike Sykes raised a question over cost for the studies which, based on Blaine’s presentation, amounted to $500,000.
Blaine said he hoped to use grants to help fund the studies. He said Albany was in a good position to receive funds based on the age of its existing studies and the fact that the city qualifies as rent-burdened.