Permitting delays ahead for Bend developers

By Shelby R. King The Bulletin

One employee from the Bend Community Development Department is temporarily injured, which could mean further delays in the already backlogged construction permitting process, according to Director Mel Oberst.

Russell Grayson, city engineer for the department’s private development engineering division last week fractured his femur while skiing at Mt. Bachelor. Oberst said Thursday Grayson will be out of the office, though he’ll be working some from home, for three to four weeks. Grayson is one of a two-person staff in the private development engineering division that also includes associate community development engineer Nicolae Oltean. They are already short-handed, and Oberst said Grayson’s temporary absence means developers may see a few extra days delay in having their questions answered and their construction plans reviewed.

The department has seen a 60 percent increase in permit requests this year over the same time last year, Oberst said. Because of the increase, the Community Development Department hasn’t been able to keep up and permit applications are backing up.

“With Russ out we’re seeing the soft underbelly in the permitting process,” he said on Thursday.

“It’s just phenomenal. We didn’t expect this much increase, this rapidly, in such a short amount of time.”

Oberst said development hit a low point in 2010, but began bouncing back in 2011. In 2012 development and permit applications grew even faster and in 2013 and 2014 growth went “straight up,” he said.

During Grayson’s absence, Bend Assistant City Engineer Jeff England, who has a job similar to Grayson and Oltean’s but works with developers in the public sector, said he’ll serve as a backup if they get in a pinch. England used to work in the private engineering division and has the same knowledge base, Oberst said. England’s presence means that division won’t need to hire temporary help, but Oberst said CDD probably will hire another permanent engineer in the future to keep up with growing demand for building permits.

“It doesn’t look like we’ll be losing him for too long and we’re setting him up at home so he can stay in communication,” Oberst said. “He won’t be able to meet with developers to scope out projects and help them navigate standards and specifications. If they have a question only he can answer we’ll have to email him and there could be a delay in getting an answer.”

Grayson and Oltean are responsible for reviewing infrastructure plans to ensure all development done in Bend by private sector crews meets development standards. Oltean reviews developers’ plans, marks where the electrical, sewer and other structural necessities should be, then sends those plans on to Grayson so he can check the calculations, review the plans and approve them, Oberst said.

“(Grayson) makes sure the plans compare to the required standards and specifications,” Oberst said. “He makes the determination whether they’ve been built according to the plans and can be included in the public infrastructure.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com