Don't give neighbors a veto on COCC growth

Central Oregon Community College is no ordinary neighbor. It’s one of Bend’s special assets. And some of its neighbors on Awbrey Butte are concerned about a loop road the college had planned.

That select group of neighbors wants COCC’s plans altered or stopped. They asked the city to pick up their legal bills to the tune of $7,256.05. (The city correctly declined.) And they want the city to require COCC to jump through more hoops and regulations before it could build any road connections.

The Bend City Council may make a decision on the issue at its meeting next week. The council should be cautious about any changes.

Let’s make a couple things clear.

Buying a home next to a college campus should carry with it a set of reasonable expectations.

There will be college students in the neighborhood. That brings noise and other things.

College campuses sometimes grow. It’s good for Bend and the education of this community if COCC grows and can expand.

COCC is already required to have a 100-foot buffer between anything it builds and its boundaries. You can argue about what the magic number is for perfect buffer size. It’s interesting to note that when residential properties are adjacent to industrial zones the maximum buffer required is only 20 feet.

COCC was not asking for special permission when it proposed building the loop road. It was not asking to build within the 100-foot buffer.

COCC makes efforts to be a good neighbor. It held a public hearing on its proposed loop road, even though it was not required to do so.

COCC supports a change that was before the city council at the council’s last meeting. The change would require notice be sent to neighbors within 250 feet of a project, allow public comment and allow for people to appeal any decision. That seems like plenty.

The select group of opponents wants more, suggesting other considerations such as noise, traffic density and safety. The council decided to continue to discuss the issue next week.

If you look out from some homes close to COCC, it’s easy to see why some neighbors can have concerns. But councilors should not grant them a de facto veto on campus growth or interior roads.