A measure pending before the Legislature, House Bill 2075, would establish a development readiness program within the Department of Land Conservation and Development to assist local governments with land use goals relating to housing and economic development.
What will that mean for the city of Albany?
“We’re not sure,” said City Manager Peter Troedsson.
The bill would create a program within the state department to provide “financial, technical and other assistance” to local governments to implement or pursue land-use planning goals. It cited the state’s ongoing housing crisis, noting that out-of-date land-use studies, comprehensive plans and limited funds have created barriers to solving the housing problem.
If that sounds familiar in Albany, here's why: Earlier this month, the Albany City Council heard a presentation by Public Works Engineering and Community Development Director Jeff Blaine on the city’s lack of planning for long-term development. Blaine told the council that little work has been done recently to examine the city's need to prepare for a growing population and continued development, and that his department wanted to “get the ball rolling.”
But that sort of planning requires resources, and both Blaine and Troedsson pointed to an eliminated staff position and budget cuts as a reason why the work had fallen behind.
“Resources within the city are pretty slim, strapped,” Troedsson said, noting that it wasn’t unique to Albany but a nationwide issue. “How do we make sure we go through the proper planning Jeff (Blaine) was talking about when we don’t have the resources to do it? I think the state is trying to help us out.”
HB 2075 does not define “assistance.” It does list the ways in which a city can pursue land-use goals, including increasing available housing and industrial lands, analyzing housing and economic land use resources, and updating comprehensive plans.
During his presentation, Blaine told the council that the city would need to update its building lands inventory study and housing needs analysis to map out long-range planning. However, the city does not currently have the funds — estimated at $500,000 — to complete the studies and other work needed to move forward. Blaine said he hoped to apply for grants.
If HB 2075 became law, it may provide a funding avenue for the city to complete its studies.
“Anytime the state can help us in one of the responsibilities we have, that’s wonderful,” Troedsson said. “The devil is in the details. Concerns would be what kind of strings are attached to this? Because no one gives you something for nothing. Sometimes that’s not the worst thing in the world and sometimes it’s not something we can take advantage of.”