OSU-Cascades responds to critics

Decision on campus expected in about three weeks

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Jul 18, 2014 at 12:01AM

OSU-Cascades submitted its final argument in support of plans to build a campus on Bend’s west side, arguing the claims by the development’s opposition are not grounded in city code.

The response, made public Thursday afternoon, is the final move in a process that began as a two-day hearing last month, drawing a crowd of 200 split between supporters and opponents. The debate is overseen by an independent hearings officer who will evaluate OSU-Cascades’ site application for a 10-acre parcel adjacent to the SW Century Drive and Chandler Avenue roundabout. The hearings officer’s job is to determine whether the campus plan meets the criteria set forth in Bend’s development code.

Maneuvering continued after the hearing between the university and its opposition, organized under the name Truth In Site, as detractors were given time to further their case against what was presented by the university at the hearing. This most recent submission is the university’s final rebuttal to Truth In Site.

In June, Bend senior planner Aaron Henson said the hearings officer usually takes about three weeks to issue a decision once the final response is submitted.

Regardless of the decision, the university expects an appeal, which could push the case to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Because of this process, the university has pushed back its anticipated opening by one year to autumn 2016.

The crux of Truth In Site’s argument concerns a 46-acre site next to where OSU-Cascades applied to build its 1,900-student campus. In the long run, the university hopes to purchase the adjacent site and expand capacity to 5,000, but because the site was a pumice mine, the university is investigating whether rehabilitating the site would be prohibitively expensive. If this second piece is developed, a “master plan,” which is a more in-depth document than a typical site plan, will be required by the city.

Truth In Site contends the university is required to submit a master plan because its long-term aspirations will involve development on a land that requires master planning. OSU-Cascades counters that there is no legal requirement to plan for land the organization doesn’t own and may never own.

“This is a fundamental example of putting the cart, a cart loaded with taxpayer money, before the horse,” said Jeffrey Kleinman, Truth In Site’s attorney. “It’s very common for developers to proceed with applications for property they don’t own yet. The university has an exclusive agreement with, I think, $700,000 in earnest money to acquire the quarry site. You don’t do a project on the scale of a state university campus without a master plan. It just makes no sense.”

In the university’s response, attorneys Steve Janik and Liz Fancher contend it is an “illogical step” to equate the university’s agreement to evaluate the pumice mine with owning it.

“OSU-Cascades has numerous contingencies that may not be resolved and no purchase may ever occur,” the document reads, adding the university may need “years” to determine whether to buy the second property.

Supporting the argument that now is not the appropriate time to do a master plan, the university’s attorneys also noted the pumice mine’s current owner has submitted a letter into the record stating it “would not allow any land use application to be filed on its property and would resist any attempt by OSU-Cascades to file such a land use application.” Kleinman declined to comment on OSU-Cascades’ final argument because he hadn’t seen it.

Truth In Site has opposed the site not only because of the master plan issue. The organization has also noted these issues: that traffic at the Reed Market Road and Brooks­wood Boulevard roundabout would be intensified; Chandler Avenue isn’t wide enough if cars park on the street; the site is too small for a university; there is no affordable housing for students near the campus; and nearby businesses would be overrun by students. In its response, the university noted these complaints and numerous others are not related to the city’s code, and therefore should have no impact on the hearing officer’s decision. No one from OSU-Cascades returned a call to answer questions.

Truth In Site’s traffic engineer, Rick Nys, also did not return a call for comment.

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