The Bend Planning Commission is calling for the city to start its own planning process for the growth and changes that will result from the expansion of Oregon State University-Cascades in southwest Bend.
Commissioners say the city should also develop a new group to address current and future development issues, with an even split of representatives from the city and university.
The university already formed its own Campus Expansion Advisory Committee earlier this year, with members from local governments, nonprofits, neighborhood associations and other constituencies. The City Council and Planning Commission might hold a joint meeting to discuss the issue in January, although the meeting has not yet been scheduled, City Manager Eric King wrote in an email Thursday.
Bill Wagner is chairman of the Planning Commission and a member of the OSU-Cascades Campus Expansion Advisory Committee. “The university’s done a good job here of bringing people together to talk about impacts,” Wagner said.
“But that isn’t a standing structure that is equally the responsibility of both the city and the university. Here, it’s just the university has established that (task force) as part of their planning process, and the city’s been invited to participate. But it’s not a co-equally sponsored structure.”
Wagner, along with two other planning commissioners and Current Planning Manager Colin Stephens, recently traveled to Corvallis to meet with city planners and learn how the city and university are collaborating to address issues around the campus.
“Our intention was to learn how the City of Corvallis and OSU have worked together to address issues resulting from recent rapid university growth,” the planning commissioners wrote in a letter to the City Council. “We learned that it is imperative that we move now to initiate four actions.”
First, the city and OSU-Cascades should jointly establish a group with representatives of both organizations to deal with current and future development, commissioners wrote. “OSU-Cascades does not have the authority or responsibility to resolve many issues that will result from their campus development,” the planning commissioners wrote. “Further, the impacts identified by the OSU process might not necessarily be inclusive of those that Bend might identify. Nor would their prioritization of the identified issues necessarily be the same as ours.”
Since government services are spread among a couple of different public agencies in Bend, the local government representatives on the committee might include officials from the Bend Park & Recreation District and Cascades East Transit.
The city should “begin to process the concerns residents have about the University’s impact on their neighborhoods and the City as a whole,” planning commissioners wrote. City officials could use the upcoming recommendations from the university expansion task force as a starting point, the commissioners said.
The planning commissioners also suggested that the city review sections of its current zoning and development regulations that relate to “university generated growth and change.” Wagner said the Planning Commission could begin work on this immediately. For example, the Planning Commission could research options to update city parking or other rules, to plan for 10 students with 10 cars living in a duplex where planners previously expected two families to live. The city, university and Cascades East Transit also need to plan for how students living off campus will commute — whether by car, bus, bicycle or another method — “because there’s not a lot of affordable housing near the proposed campus here,” Wagner said.
Finally, the Planning Commission said the city should hire a new employee in the Community Development Department or reassign an existing one to work on “the many planning and development projects that will result” from the university’s development plans. Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore said city officials have been discussing options to ensure that an employee can focus on the university expansion in the future. “The funding is always the issue,” Skidmore said.
A spokeswoman for OSU-Cascades could not be reached for comment.
Bend Mayor Pro Tem Jodie Barram is a member of the Neighborhood Livability Task Force, a subcommittee of the OSU-Cascades Campus Expansion Advisory Committee. Barram said she expects the subcommittee to issue recommendations in March on how to maintain quality of life in and around the campus. Barram said the university expansion committee will likely continue its work through 2014, and it is not necessary for the city and university to create a new group to address development issues until after the existing committee completes its work. Barram said that city employees, including the assistant city manager, a transportation engineer, planner and code enforcement officer, have also been participating in the university expansion committee.
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