Latest census shows whopping growth – in Bend and beyond

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: June 28. 2007 5:00AM PST

Central Oregon cities continue to grow at a breakneck pace compared to the rest of the state — no matter who’s doing the counting.

Population estimates made public today by the U.S. Census Bureau estimate Bend’s population at 71,892.

But that’s low compared to estimates released in March by the Population Research Center at Portland State University. The agency pegged Bend’s population at 75,290. Different methods of counting lead to the different figures.

Both agencies agree, however, that Central Oregon’s growing, and the fastest growth in the region since 2000 has not been in Bend.

Sisters and Redmond both grew at faster rates, figures from both agencies show.

All together, five Central Oregon cities — Sisters, Redmond, Bend, Culver and Prineville — were among the top 15 fastest-growing cities in the state out of about 240 incorporated areas.

Between July 2000 and July 2006, the state’s fastest-growing incorporated city was Happy Valley, near Portland, according to PSU. In the last year alone, Happy Valley grew by about 27 percent, and its population more than doubled between 2000 and 2006.

But close behind Happy Valley were Sisters and Redmond, which grew by 82 percent and 74.3 percent, respectively, in the last six years.

Brian Rankin, the planning and community development director in Sisters, said he’s not surprised by the data.

“I haven’t seen the figures yet — I’m too busy doing development permits,” Rankin said. “We’re feeling it. It’s kind of interesting because I think sometimes we forget that this rate of growth is really extraordinary and not the norm.”

He added that he thinks the city’s growth in the last five or six years has a lot to do with the installation of a municipal wastewater treatment plant in 1999, which allowed denser development to occur.

“We’ve had the land base and the capacity within our urban growth boundary and within our city, and the sewer has unleashed the potential within that area, and so that’s different than the cities of Redmond and Bend, for example,” he said. “There’s been this pent-up demand for a certain kind of housing in Sisters. We’re able to provide that housing now, where six years ago we couldn’t.”

But Rankin added that he does not expect Sisters’ growth to continue at such an accelerated rate.

“I think it’ll slow down, and it really has slowed down. If you look at the level of building permits that we’re issuing this year versus five years ago, it’s fewer,” he said. “It’s been tapering off slightly — I want to emphasize slightly.”

That analysis seems to be reflected in PSU’s numbers, which show that Sisters grew about 5 percent in the last year.

By comparison, Redmond continues to grow at a rapid year-over-year rate, increasing its population by more than 17 percent between July 2005 and July 2006.

Bend, which ranked seventh in the state in terms of population change for the last six years, grew by about 45 percent in that time period. The city’s growth rate between 2005 and 2006 was about 7 percent, behind Redmond, Culver, Prineville and Madras.

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