By Bruce Abernethy

I have been delinquent in expressing my strong support for the proposed west-side location for the new OSU-Cascades campus. But I am now quite concerned that a small, highly vocal group is putting at risk a project that has the potential to fundamentally change this community — economically, socially and culturally — for the better and help us to finally move beyond “poverty with a view.”

In writing this piece, I wear a number of different “hats” — parent, employee of the Bend-La Pine school district, board chair of Central Oregon Community College, and former Bend City Council member.

The bottom line for me is the city should trust its staff, trust its land use policies, trust its process! Do not let this incredible project be derailed by a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mindset.

Will there be challenges associated with the expansion at the proposed location? Of course. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be approved. I actually predict five to 10 years down the road we will be looking around and asking what all the fuss was about.

Having been on City Council, I have seen example after example of Chicken Little “the sky is falling” claims. From the wanton disruption of the Bend Parkway, to the impending gridlock that will be brought on by growth and the Westside Consortium. From our supposed inability to handle COCC’s enrollment increase, to degrading the river by allowing Old Mill shops and restaurants so close to the banks, to ruining our livability by building the Southern River Crossing and running Reed Market Road along the Deschutes River, etc., etc., etc. I implore city planners to see this current opposition as NIMBY. And I encourage them to continue the city’s role of helping to thoughtfully manage growth within the urban growth boundary.

Many critics charge that OSU-Cascades is getting preferential treatment, yet it appears to me it is the opponents who are treating the university differently. Can you imagine telling Fred Meyer or any other private business that had the opportunity to buy and develop properly zoned land, “We understand you have done extensive market research, and that you think this location would attract your customers (think students) and help your business succeed, but we feel a better location would be somewhere else.” Really? That is essentially what is happening here. There is a big difference between trying to work with OSU-Cascades to address parking, traffic and other issues and make this a better project — and trying to kill it altogether.

In seeking to find the “best” location (not perfect, but best), OSU-Cascades officials had several criteria that they were trying to address. They wanted the new facilities to be integrated into the community, with an inviting campus all Central Oregonians can use and enjoy. They wanted to be close to businesses, recreation, transit and other amenities for their students, faculty and visitors to use every day. They wanted to be close to Central Oregon Community College since they have shared (and will continue to share) many amenities like a library, athletic facilities and possible housing. Being in town means more people can walk or bike to campus rather than travel by car. Oh, and like other businesses, they also had a budget and a timeline. Most of the critics are completely dismissive (or ignorant) of all these other criteria, caring only about their perceived self interest.

Will there be challenges? Yes. And the city can put in place various milestones that will trigger any necessary adjustments going forward. Many of these are already contained in the OSU-Cascades Parking Management Plan. The question under review for this application is not whether this site is the appropriate place to put a campus. The question is whether the application meets the criteria and standards in the Bend Development Code. The longer we wait (or face delays by critics dragging out the review), the longer until we see the benefits of a four-year university in Bend.

— Bruce Abernethy lives in Bend.