State board sides with OSU-Cascades on campus appeal

Opponents say they will take case to Oregon Court of Appeals

By Abby Spegman / The Bulletin

A state board has cleared the way for Oregon State University-Cascades to move forward with construction of a 10-acre campus on the west side of Bend.

“We’re excited that we can start looking forward and building the new campus,” said Becky Johnson, OSU-Cascades vice president. “We have believed all along that we have complied with Bend’s (development) code and this decision affirms that.”

The lawyer for campus opponents says the group plans to appeal.

OSU-Cascades will begin to offer freshman and sophomore classes this fall, but plans to build the 10-acre campus near SW Century Drive and Chandler Avenue were delayed following legal challenges.

An independent hearing examiner and the Bend City Council previously approved OSU-Cascades’ plans, but a group of residents organized under the name Truth in Site appealed to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals.

The appeal hinged on whether tentative plans to develop additional acres should require OSU-Cascades to do a master plan. The university plans to develop a campus big enough to support 5,000 students. It already owns the 10-acre parcel that it says could support 1,900 students; next door is 46 acres that includes a former pumice mine.

In arguments before LUBA in April, Truth in Site’s Portland-based attorney Jeffrey Kleinman said the university was hiding its true intention of eventually developing 56 acres of land to avoid a long and expensive master planning process, which the city requires for developments of 20 acres or more.

Kleinman cited city documents and university statements that OSU-Cascades anticipates the full development will eventually reach 56 acres. The city, which was a respondent to the appeal along with OSU-Cascades, argued it has granted approval for the 10 acres only.

In its decision released Tuesday, the Land Use Board of Appeals noted “there is evidence in the record that supports a conclusion that OSU eventually plans to develop a larger campus” but agreed with the city’s decision to consider only the land currently under the university’s control.

Kleinman said Tuesday the group plans to appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals. It has until June 29 to file.

“I think the whole decision is ripe for an appeal,” he said.

The mine property would cost OSU $7.9 million to acquire, according to a 2013 agreement, but university officials have emphasized that is not a done deal and they could explore other options. Their option on the property expires in September 2017.

Johnson said officials must now consider whether to move ahead with construction while an appeal is pending or wait it out, noting that having the campus ready for students by fall 2016 “is the most optimistic projection.”

“We’ll have to assess the risk of that type of appeal,” she said. “We feel confident that we (will) prevail in another appeal or two, but you never know.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,

aspegman@bendbulletin.com

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