Measuring opposition to OSU-Cascades

Broken Top residents surveyed on campus location

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

A survey of Broken Top residents confirms there is significant opposition to the proposed location of OSU-Cascades, though the extent of that sentiment is muddled by a low response rate.

The university aims to open a new, four-year campus on Bend’s west side by 2016. While initially the university will cap its campus population under 2,000, OSU-Cascades intends to eventually grow to 5,000 students.

The location of this campus was the subject of the Broken Top survey. Results were provided to The Bulletin by resident John Phillips, who along with other opponents of the site championed for the commission of a survey.

While it’s clear there are opponents to the university’s proposed location just across Mt. Washington Drive from the gated Broken Top community, it is not clear if opponents make up the majority. According to Phillips, 184 homeowners said they opposed the university’s location, while 84 supported it. Forty-six residents were either neutral or undecided.

Hanging over the results, however, are the roughly 300 Broken Top homeowners who did not participate. While representing a clear majority of those who responded, the 184 opposition votes account for only 29 percent of residents.

Broken Top Community Association General Manager Stephen Herr declined to confirm the tally received by The Bulletin, but he did confirm that the survey was administered. He noted that any result for or against the university will not require the association to take formal action, such as the funding of a legal challenge.

“Whatever numbers John (Phillips) gave you, people can take those numbers and make them state whatever they want to state,” Herr said.

Beyond providing results, Phillips was unavailable to answer questions regarding the survey. Broken Top Community Association President Pam Sullivan did not return a call for comment.

OSU-Cascades Director of Communications Christine Coffin said the university is “committed to being a good neighbor to all surrounding community members and nothing can change that.”

Coffin added that the university has “proactively engaged” Broken Top, citing the involvement of residents on the Campus Expansion Advisory Committee, a volunteer group responsible for making recommendations on everything from housing to environmental stewardship.

Broken Top resident Carl Seneker, who has before criticized the university’s location, said he was “not surprised” by the results, specifying that he believes residents want to see OSU-Cascades’ long-range plans for the site, not just for the first few years.

Seneker’s comments are in reference to a debate surrounding how much of the future campus must be planned before construction is approved by the city. Currently, OSU-Cascades has only bought and submitted a plan for a 10-acre development adjacent to the Southwest Century Drive and Chandler Avenue roundabout. However, the university also has the right to purchase an adjacent 46-acre site if it passes a geotechnical inspection. Opponents to the university have claimed no development should be approved until the university completes a master plan for the entire 56 acres, while OSU-Cascades contends it shouldn’t be required to plan for something it does not own.

“It’s very difficult to believe that a major institution like OSU would be planning a significant addition to their program without a master plan,” Seneker said. “It kind of boggles the mind to be honest. This lack of communication creates concern about what it’s going to look like and be like.”

Seneker also said he believed the survey response rate was fairly typical for a community where many residents travel in the summer and “own a second or third home elsewhere.”

“I would be surprised if the results changed with 100 percent of the votes,” he added.

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