La Pine at a Crucial Phase in Its Development


(Geoff Wullschlager is City manager for Central Oregon’s second-fastest-growing city | Photo by Andrea Hine)

As Central Oregon’s second-fastest-growing city (after Sisters), La Pine has a 2023 population of 2,838 — an increase of 11.3 percent since 2020. “La Pine is at a crucial phase in its development,” said City Manager Geoff Wullschlager. “Growth and expansion will really kick into overdrive because we still have a lot of undeveloped residential land in which to spread out. I predict that our population will reach at least 4,000 in the next five years.”

An Orderly, Consistent Land Use Process

However, he cautioned, “In the past, development was somewhat unfettered, which is no longer the case. As we’re now attracting attention from large-scale developers, as well as retailers and hotel chains, we have to exhibit that La Pine has an orderly, consistent process for land use and development. We’re going to proceed in the same manner as larger, neighboring communities.”

Key to managing the town’s growth is “exercising code to the degree to which it is allowable,” said Wullschlager. For example, “We can’t expand beyond the town’s clearly defined boundaries, and must conform to height restrictions. This means there won’t be ten-story buildings in our future, nor will we be gobbling up more land, as some have mistakenly feared.”

Virtually Built Out Downtown Commercial Core

In addition, “Virtually everything is built out in La Pine’s downtown commercial core. There are very few remaining lots along or adjacent to U.S. 97 between the north and south ends of the incorporated limits.”

“While we’re by no means anti-development,” Wullschlager noted, “those who come into the limited commercial space we have will need to conform to code and zoning standards, including the Cascadia design theme as contained in the City’s Downtown Overlay Zone. Like Sisters, La Pine has a major highway intersecting it, which briefly gives the town a captive audience. We’re working toward having a downtown area that is aesthetically pleasing, and that will attract people to stop instead of just driving through.”

Central Oregon’s Most Affordable Industrial Space

Moving from commercial to industrial development, Wullschlager said that “the 160 acres still available in La Pine’s 330-acre Industrial Park are ‘shovel ready,’ and offer the most affordable industrial space in Central Oregon.” (To compare, land costs $1.75 per square foot, compared $12-$16 in Bend, and $8 a square foot in Redmond.)

“We’ve set aside the Industrial Park for companies involved in manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and the traded sector — those industries that will increase the number of family-wage jobs, particularly for the local work force.” (Wullschlager estimated that labor pool at 14,000 when considering surrounding communities.)

Need for Affordable Housing

Admitting that “we’re still somewhat in a bubble, as a lot of issues that come with urbanization such as rampant violent crime haven’t yet landed on our doorstop, we have an environment where people feel relatively safe walking around downtown, even at night, and are comfortable interacting with each other while standing in the grocery line,” Wullschlager added a caveat.

“Like the remainder of Central Oregon, however, La Pine doesn’t have enough affordable housing. New single-family ‘entry-level’ homes with 1,400 square feet of space start at $375k. And while I’m no CPA or economist,” he said, “mortgage payments for such a property would total more than $2k per month — likely necessitating a two-income household.”

In the past two years, Wullschlager estimated that a total of 350 units — including single-family homes, apartments, and single-wide structures — have been built in La Pine. He noted, however, that “construction of single-family homes has displayed a noticeable slowdown in the last 12 months, as developers seek to maximize square footage space. The trend is moving toward increased development of multi-family dwellings to accommodate workers — which is an advantageous long-term investment for the developers, and adds to the town’s stock of affordable housing.”

As city manager, “I frequently get calls regarding development opportunities,” said Wullschlager, “and am involved in many exciting possibilities with interested parties. La Pine now has people consistently knocking on our door, and is in a very enviable position.”


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