Bob Speik

“There will be hundreds of people gathered in city hall who are mad as hell” Councilman Mark Capell said, at a council meeting. “There are lots of people who this hurts dramatically.” He was speaking of the pending conversion of infrastructure to replace irrigation water with city drinking water in the four Jan Ward Planned Unit Developments in southeast Bend.

Some 700 Bend homeowners soon must pay the city a total of $3,600,100 at a $5,143 one-time bargain price in 2015 or pay $6,567,120 — $26.06 monthly (including interest) — for 30 years to replace Deschutes County approved system irrigation and potable water pipes that were installed by Ward under his popular, new 1970s neighborhoods.

The city now claims this county-approved Ward system is “failing” and must be replaced in part, at the homeowner’s expense. Many Bend neighborhoods have much older county designed water systems and homeowners are not charged for major infrastructure changes.

The city was eager to take Ward’s nonprofit system and did so during a PUC rate dispute in 2002. Good service returned to normal in a few days after the city took control.

In 2004, irrigation water rights and the obligation to pay for “infrastructure reconstruction” were given to the city by volunteer boards at the four Homeowners Associations, when each homeowner was obligated to pay $45,000, and again in 2011 when the city offered the current “better deal.”

The “better deal,” however, included our loss of valuable rights to be served by irrigation water for 75 years.

At a homeowners meeting on Aug. 5 gathered by an ad hoc group named FAIR RATES, more than 200 “angry homeowners” heard attorney Bill Buchanan suggest that both HOA/city agreements were flawed, unenforceable and that neither agreement was ratified by individual homeowners as required by Oregon Statute 94,665. (Bill Buchanan, with Karnopp Petersen LLP, assisted Jan Ward in his original lawsuit — winning $6.6 million from the city according to The Bulletin.

Much has been made recently, by Bulletin staff writer Hillary Borrud, about the need to conserve water here in the High Desert at the foot of the Cascades.

This effort to shape attitudes prompted an “In My View” piece by a resident of Nottingham Square who proclaimed her “neighborhood was much more modest than ‘lush.’” Their commons covers all their land but their home sites. She noted that her neighborhood required no infrastructure work. It is only a few years newer than Tillicum, but they must pay the same fees ($5,143 or $26.06 monthly including interest for 30 years) as the other Ward homeowners. The city/HOA agreements are clearly not “FAIR.”

Older and quirky Tillicum, the first PUD in Oregon, with homes scattered about almost without regard for property lines, streets rumpled by roots and wandering between old growth trees, (some confirmed alive since about 1776), and room for all the big recreation toys alongside the garage, is particularly popular for families and active seniors.

The city may intend to cut down three almost 100-year-old Ponderosa pines in Tillicum. Mark Capell commented to me that he had seen the pines on a staff tour. No, they are our roads, we pay dues to our HOA to maintain and plow them. Jan Ward built our roads around those very old trees!

The Ward PUDs were designed for individual homes scattered without fences on community-maintained roads and irrigated commons. To be FAIR, the city must respect us and withdraw the so-called agreements and treat us like any other citizens of Bend.