After years of research, discussions and recommendations, Portland's Comprehensive Plan update has finally reached its most critical stage — the time when the City Council will finally consider amendments and approve it.

The first work session begins at 9:30 a.m. today, Jan. 26. Mayor Hales has asked the council members to identify their proposed amendments before it begins. The final vote is expected by the end of April.

The Comp Plan — as it is commonly called — is a state-required land use planning document that will guide Portland's growth for the next 20 years.

"This the most important document the city ever writes," Mayor Charlie Hales said said when the council held its fifth hearing on the update recommended by the Planning and Sustainability Commission on Jan. 13. It is suppose to accommodate 200,000 more residents by 2035.

Tuesday's work session is the first of three where council members will discuss and vote on amendments to address their concerns — and potentially some of those expressed by the hundreds of citizens who have testified in person and writing.

Until now, Hales and the other members have not said much about what they are thinking. One exception is Commissioner Steve Novick, who revealed he supports increased density in at least some residential neighborhoods. According to Novick, increasing urban density helps fight climate change by reducing driving and encouraging transit.

"We in Portland love our neighborhoods and don't want them to change and I understand that. But we also believe in the environment and reducing our carbon emissions, and that's kind of at odds," Novick said at the beginning of a Jan. 7 hearing on the update.

Novick's statement did not go over well with everyone in the audience.

"Big box apartments in century old neighborhoods are tearing our city’s fabric apart. This need not be," testified Jeff Cole, a member of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.

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