OSU-Cascades campus delayed

By Tyler Leeds The Bulletin
Published Apr 29, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Apr 29, 2014 at 02:35PM

Facing an extended land use review process that may delay the opening of its planned four-year campus, Oregon State University-Cascades Campus has begun looking for temporary student housing and classroom space on Bend’s west side. The university doesn’t anticipate being delayed more than a year and is eyeing a 2016 opening for the campus while maintaining plans to welcome its first freshmen and sophomores in 2015.

The announcement follows a decision by the city to send the university’s site plan for the first phase of its expansion to a hearings officer in anticipation of an appeal. Opposition to OSU-Cascades’ proposed 56-acre campus, which is located near the Southwest Chandler Avenue and Century Drive roundabout, organized in March under the group Truth In Site. The group has opposed the location based on concerns over the impact on traffic and quality of life while promising a legal challenge. Truth In Site’s spokesman, Scott Morgan, did not return a call for comment on Monday.

OSU-Cascades finalized its site plan application last week for a 10-acre site, which the university hopes will serve 1,900 students before a second expansion. The parcel is already zoned for university use, but OSU-Cascades anticipates the 120-day review process being extended by an appeal.

Ground-breaking is dependent on approval, but even then, an appeal can delay construction. Residents can appeal the hearings officer’s decision to the Bend City Council, and then appeal the council’s decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. That decision, too, can be opposed, elevating the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals and then the state Supreme Court.

“If we’re not going to have buildings in place by fall of 2015, we need to figure out where to teach freshman and sophomore classes and house freshmen whose parents want them to be in a supervised living environment,” said Becky Johnson, an OSU vice president and the highest-ranking administrator in Bend.

Finding class space is the easier of the two challenges. OSU-Cascades currently uses a building on the Central Oregon Community College campus for junior and senior courses, and Johnson said COCC seems willing to allow OSU-Cascades to keep its programming in that space for an extra year. She did note, however, that COCC may oppose the teaching of freshmen and sophomores in that location.

To serve underclassmen, the university said it has capacity in its Graduate and Research Center on Southwest Columbia Street, a building that is currently busiest in the evening. The university will also not seek new tenants for two spaces currently used by outside groups in the center.

“It will certainly be tight,” Johnson said.

The harder challenge is housing. Johnson said there is a possibility for freshmen to live in a new COCC dorm planned for a fall 2015 opening, though she noted that wouldn’t be the most convenient location if classes were in the Graduate and Research Center. Another possibility involves an agreement with a private developer, but no deals have been finalized.

“We were going to require all freshman students to live on campus, but depending on what solution we come up with, we may not be able to require any of them to live on campus,” Johnson said.

Given the uncertainty, Johnson said recruiting the university’s first underclassmen may become more difficult.

“It’s hard to recruit when we don’t know what we will have,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that even under “a worst-case scenario” in terms of appeals, the campus should be able to be completed by fall 2016.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. In the original story, the decision to enlist a hearings officer was mis-attributed. The decision was made by City of Bend planners.

The Bulletin regrets the error.