Editorial: OSU hearings admirably civil, awry on planning notion

The most impressive thing about the two days of hearings on the plan for the Oregon State University-Cascades Campus may not have been the arguments for and against. It was the tone.

The Bend municipal court was full of people with passionate concerns and hopes. There was no disruptive jeering, boos or applause. Speakers voluntarily stuck to the three-minute time limit, for the most part. And speakers most importantly stuck to substantive arguments about the plan and didn’t make personal attacks.

One argument that got a lot of attention was launched by Jeffrey Kleinman, the attorney for Truth in Site, an organized group opposed to the plan.

In his vision, Bend should adhere to a new planning standard. OSU-Cascades — and presumably other developers and builders — shouldn’t just be required to plan for what they are actually building and property they actually own.

Instead, they should be required to plan for whatever aspirations they might have about the future — even if they don’t own the property.

City staff argued at the hearing that Kleinman’s argument is an incorrect reading of the planning requirement under Bend code.

But of course, Kleinman’s argument is a recognition of what we all know about the OSU-Cascades plan. It’s not likely to stop at the 10-acre site on Chandler Avenue and 1,800 students. It could be much more in the future.

It could expand to another 50 acres or so, which it does not own, and to 5,000 students. Even if the adjacent pumice mine/landfill are found to be unsuitable for expansion, OSU-Cascades has suggested it would look at buying up or leasing other buildings and properties between the location on Chandler and the Graduate & Research Center off Columbia Street.

You would have to be crazy not to wonder what the traffic, parking and other challenges will be in the future. The city would have to be crazy not to be thinking about it.

But it would be a kind of planning hypochondria to require businesses, developers and colleges to run up expenses, submit plans, do traffic studies and have parking plans for property they don’t own but that they might, maybe expand to in the future.

Who would decide how a business might expand? How would that be decided?

It would launch a new level of government coercion and business and government expense. It would set a standard for development in Bend that would be nearly impossible to implement and wholly unattractive.