By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

The city of Bend’s Affordable Housing Committee awarded development fee exemptions to five projects at a meeting Wednesday, one day after the Bend Park & Recreation District board reaffirmed its decision to not help out with the program.

The meeting began with committee members criticizing the park board’s decision to not participate in the fee exemption program. The fees, known as system development charges, or SDCs, are levied by both the city and park district to fund infrastructure related to population growth. For the district that means new parks, while the city’s funds go to roads, sewers and the drinking water system. The Bend City Council approved a program that will waive up to $1 million worth of SDCs this budget cycle, while the park district was considering a $500,000 exemption.

“Unfortunately, the park district doesn’t want to help out with what some would call the city’s biggest problem,” said Andy High, the committee’s board chairman and a vice president for the Central Oregon Builders Association.

Addressing a concern raised by park district board member Nathan Hovekamp, High said, “Some seem to believe this is a big giveaway for the developers. Believe me, that’s not the case. If it were, I’d know.”

Other board members questioned whether the park district would feel more pressure to help if the public was more aware it is governed as a separate entity from the city of Bend.

Councilor Barb Campbell, who attended the meeting as a liaison to the City Council, suggested the city look into increasing a small fee it levies on the park district for collecting park SDCs from developers.

After discussing the district’s decision, the committee weighed the five affordable housing projects seeking exemptions, eventually deciding to fund all five of them, though most will receive an amount less than requested.

One of the largest projects is near St. Charles Bend and backed by Housing Works, the region’s housing agency. The 53-unit project, recommended to receive $306,305 in exemptions, includes housing for low-income residents with complex medical issues.

Another project, recommended to receive $156,925 in exemptions, is a 48-unit development on a yet-to-be determined west-side parcel. That project is being developed by Pacific Crest Affordable Housing, which built the Discovery Park Lodge, a building for low-income seniors, in NorthWest Crossing.

A 12-unit project off NE Revere Avenue north of downtown being developed by Steven Rzonca, a private developer, was recommended to receive $77,845. The committee praised it for blending affordable and market-rate units, which will be used to help offset the cost of reserving some homes for low-income residents.

The committee also commended Rzonca for showing that private developers can take on affordable projects.

“It will encourage others, showing it can be done and should be done,” Campbell said.

In total, the committee only awarded $750,000 of the $1 million available, a move members said will allow them to evaluate other projects, should they arise. Additionally, as many affordable projects are dependent on stitching together a number of funding sources, it’s possible not all five will be built.

However, Jim Long, the city’s affordable housing manager, noted it’s easier for a project to receive state funding if there’s local support, saying, “We have to show we’re committed.”

The City Council must vote to approve the exemption recommendations.

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

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