A new neighborhood is budding after years of planning. It’s beyond the borders of Bend’s city limits off Skyliners Road. Roads will be paved by this fall in The Tree Farm development, and soon houses will start to go up.

“We started negotiating with the Miller family back in 2013, and our agreement was appealed by Central Oregon Land Watch commission, and the Wildland Urban Interface who wanted to make sure there would be a detailed plan for wildlife protection, along with plans to reduce the threat of wildfire,” explained Tree Farm Project Manager for Brooks Resources Romy Mortensen. Deschutes County Commissioners approved the land use in August 2015. Central Oregon Land Watch and Tree Farm, LLC, reached an agreement earlier this year.

From the start of negotiations, the Miller family, owners of property since 1955, wanted to make sure the developer, The Tree Farm, LLC — a partnership between Brooks Resources Corp. and Syliners TWS, LLC — understood their vision and desire to respect the land.

“Miller lumber began in 1911 with my grandfather Harry who served as Mayor of Bend. Then my father Bill started Central Oregon Pumice and bought the Miller Tree Farm in 1955,” explained son, Charley Miller, at an unveiling of the newest neighborhood earlier this summer.

“It was important to us, as a family, to preserve the land as much as possible because this land is the core of the community. It’s a special place, and we wanted forested land to be kept in perpetuity forever,” Charley Miller said.

To that end, Miller agreed to go into partnership on the 533-acre property with The Tree Farm, LLC with the caveat that more than 400 acres would be set aside in this neighborhood for permanent open space, with public access for the community.

“My father was a good steward of this property; he was an environmentalist and was once awarded the ‘Oregon Tree Farmer of the year.’ He had such an appreciation and love for the land,” recalled Charley Miller, who said the tree farm was last harvested in the 1990s. “I remember playing on this land but also pulling out noxious weeds — a job I did not love.”

But love of the open forest is something the entire Miller family is passionate about,. Though they realize growth is inevitable, they believe it can be done in a sustainable, responsible and well-planned fashion.

Charley Miller’s father, Bill Miller, was one of the early promoters of Central Oregon Community College, and his mother, Connie, was elected to the Bend Park & Recreation District’s first board of directors. The family also donated the land where High Lakes Elementary School is located.

With a long history of community involvement, Charley Miller knew careful land management and great care would be needed to continue the Millers’ vision of the forested land.

At the project’s unveiling, a development map was shown to the more than 200 guests and potential buyers.

In what may be the latest trend of neighborhood development in our area, is a tract of 50 clustered lots on 2 acres each.

“We have a legacy to live up to, so we didn’t want a lot of density,” explained Brooks Resources President Kirk Schuler. “This is a collaborative effort, and more than 400 acres in this development will be permanently dedicated to the open space. We would like to transfer the western portion of this open space to the park district, which would enlarge Shevlin Park by 300 acres. This would enlarge the park for the entire community, with more biking and pedestrian trails.”

By clustering the lots in one area, The Tree Farm, LLC, was able to preserve that large swath of open space. This neighborhood will be free of security gates but will have a homeowners association fee to maintain the 3 miles of roads in the area, as well as the pathways, trails and other common areas. The fee has yet to be determined.

Because The Tree Farm is located on county land, each lot will have its own septic system but will be connected to Bend city water, Cascade Natural Gas, Bend Broadband, Century Link and Pacific Corp.

Two school districts share the land; 37 of the lots will be in the Bend-La Pine Schools, and the remaining lots will be in the Redmond School District.

“We don’t see this as a problem,” Mortensen said, “because we talked with the school districts, and if a family requests a school district transfer, it’s usually granted, though not guaranteed.”

Starting this week and running through August, Brooks Resources will offer free tours to the lots. To book a tour, go visit http://treefarmbend.com/tours/.

There is no pricing of the lots yet; Mortensen said they will be set in a couple of months. She said each 2-acre lot will have views, from some lots homeowners will be able to see the Cascade Range.

By the end of the year, Mortensen said, she expects the lots will be closing, and the first homes in The Tree Farm will be built in the new year.

The homes’ plans must be approved by an architectural review committee, and the minimum size will be at least 2,500 square feet with a maximum of 14,000 square feet.

Because U.S. Forest Service land and parklands surround the neighborhood, Mortensen said The Tree Farm will be committed to being Firewise Communities USA recognized.

“We are very aware of the threat of wildfire, especially after the Two Bulls Fire in 2014 and the Awbrey Hall Fire that burned through some portions of the Tree Farm back in the 1990s,” said Mortensen. “The Awbrey hall fire on our forested areas of the property actually now act as a natural fire break against future wildfire threats.”

The Miller family also maintained its property to reduce fire fuels by clearing the land of brush, thinning and limbing trees. Mortensen said future fire abatement projects will continue when the neighborhood is built out, and it will maintain specific requirements for fire-resistant building materials and landscape treatments to help with wildfire protection and safety.

With the plans of the layout of the land, Charley Miller said he’s satisfied the neighborhood will sustain the natural character of the land. The visual experience and vistas are still in place for everyone in the community to enjoy, he said.

“In the long term, this is going to be good for the community — it will be good to share outdoor educational experiences and for everyone to have public access to the open space,” said Miller. “It also protects the wildlife in the area, and natural migration routes are still open for the deer.”

— Reporter: halpen1@aol.com

(Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. The original version contained several incorrect facts. Bill Miller was one of the early promoters of Central Oregon Community College and one-time Bend mayor. Connie Miller was elected to the Bend Park & Recreation District’s first board of directors. All the 2-acre lots have views. The developer of The Tree Farm is The Tree Farm, LLC. The Bulletin regrets the errors.)

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