Officials with the city of Bend and Oregon State University-Cascades Campus say a new agreement they recently signed will help guide the rapid development of the first phase of the new campus over the next 18 months.
But the memorandum between the two does not address one question coming up in the community: Will OSU-Cascades make a payment to the city for law enforcement and other services?
The memorandum of understanding states the city will hold OSU-Cascades to the same land use standards and application process as other developers. It calls for the city and university to each identify a project manager who will handle most of the communication between the two entities regarding development issues.
Additionally, the memorandum describes the team OSU will recruit and hire for the project: a traffic engineer, land use planner or attorney, civil engineer, project manager and someone to provide architect and design services.
OSU-Cascades officials plan to open this phase of the new campus in fall 2015. “A clear definition of roles and rules of engagement are critical elements in meeting the aggressive timelines identified above,” according to the memorandum.
The memorandum that Bend City Manager Eric King and OSU Vice President Becky Johnson signed covers only the first, 10-acre phase of the new college campus in southwest Bend. Officials said they will negotiate a separate memorandum of understanding to cover the process of master planning for the remainder of the 56-acre campus.
The memorandum does not address money for OSU-Cascades’ impacts on law enforcement and other services. Most of the money for the city to pay for police, fire, emergency medical and some infrastructure work comes from property taxes.
As a government entity, the university will not pay property taxes on the new campus. King said he talked to Johnson once about the issue, but the two only acknowledged that people in the community were beginning to raise questions about it.
“I don’t know if payment-in-lieu-of-taxes is an avenue we will aggressively pursue,” King said Wednesday. “All I know is we are getting questions from the community. They know a significant amount of property will come off the tax rolls, and (ask) ‘What will the city do about that?’”
King said the city will probably start a larger discussion about the need for tax reform in Oregon and how to handle lost property taxes from all entities that are exempt from them. He added that the city has not determined the amount of tax revenue it might lose when the university purchases land for the new campus, which is currently a mine and a vacant lot.
Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore said city employees are researching the issue and looking into questions such as whether a private business that leases space from the university must pay property taxes. “I think a lot of it depends on what their strategy is for building out that campus,” Skidmore said.
Christine Coffin, director of communications and outreach for the campus, wrote in an email that “OSU Cascades is similar to other not-for-profit entities in Bend — like St. Charles, COCC, Bend Recreation & Parks and state agencies — that do not pay property taxes, and should be treated equally.”
Kelly Sparks, OSU’s associate vice president for finance and strategic planning, said the school has hired some of the members of its development team and is in the process of hiring a permanent project manager.
“I think it’s a really important thing for us to be clear for both parties what are our roles and responsibilities,” Sparks said. “This is a really important project for the community, and for us to be on the same page will give us the best opportunity to be successful.”
Skidmore said the memorandum will help the city and university avoid the disorganization that can result when engineers, attorneys and other employees on a developer’s team all call the city with questions.
“It’s an easy way for things to get uncoordinated in a hurry,” Skidmore said on Wednesday. “By having a point person on each side, that will be the conduit for information.”
Skidmore said state law requires the city to complete a final land use decision within 120 days, so it is feasible for OSU-Cascades to build the first phase of the campus in a year.
The memorandum states the 10-acre development project will cause transportation impacts the university and city must address, including on-site and off-site parking, safety for different types of travel, such as bicycles and pedestrians, traffic congestion and the need for all types of transportation to have access to the site.
“The city and OSU-Cascades will work closely to identify progressive approaches to address these issues,” the agreement says.
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