An 80-acre parcel of land south of the Old Mill District has tentatively been sold for development but has met with opposition by area residents who want it to remain undeveloped.

Three neighborhood associations in southern Bend are joining forces to raise awareness about the sale of the land currently held by the Central Oregon Irrigation District. A letter-writing campaign has started and signs declaring “Save Deschutes South Canyon” have been erected around the area, located near Brookswood Boulevard.

The irrigation district, which has held land in the area since the early 1900s, is planning to sell the property to Bend-based Pahlisch Homes. Craig Horrell, general manager for the district, said the land is expected to sell for $10 million. The sale still has to be finalized, however, Horrell said.

Before building permits can be issued, the 80-acre parcel would need to become a legal lot of record in order for Deschutes County to allow development.

The parcel for sale is part of a larger 139-acre plot bordered by Brookswood to the east and the Deschutes River to the west. The area is popular with joggers, bicycle riders and dog walkers, and features some steep sections that tumble down from the rim of the canyon to the river.

The irrigation district says it will hang onto roughly half of its land in the area as it maintains critical infrastructure there, including a buried pipe. But the irrigation district is trying to reduce its land ownership footprint.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard for us to maintain land in the city limits because of the homeless, and it’s becoming a liability for us actually because two fires were started there,” said Horrell.

The fires occurred in 2020 and 2021, he said. The fires were extinguished before they caused any serious damage or property loss, but the incidents were a wake-up call for the district.

“If we didn’t see them early on, they could have burned up those river canyons, and created a lot of damage to homes so we are afraid of owning land in the city limits,” said Horrell.

The idea to sell the land to Pahlisch Homes is not new — the process is now in its fourth year, said Horrell. But public opposition has only recently emerged.

The Southern Crossing, SouthWest Bend, and Century West neighborhood associations have joined together to raise awareness of development. The associations created a website (savebendgreenspace.org) to inform the public about developments and have encouraged concerned residents to contact their representatives.

From August to October, the city received more than 100 emails from residents about the land sale. Most of the comments were in opposition to the plan.

“This is not an empty area that might as well be developed, it is one of the areas that makes Bend special,” Bend resident Robert Wooldridge wrote in an email. “It’s a wildlife corridor that will be sorely missed by thousands of residents.”

“Selling off an area this beautiful and rare is simply unacceptable, and I believe not in the true spirit of Bend,” wrote another Bendite, Kerrie Danielsen.

This is not the first time Pahlisch has faced opposition from neighbors protesting the sale of a property. Last summer homeowners around River’s Edge Golf Course campaigned against plans to sell the course Pahlisch.

The homeowners were victorious after course owner Wayne Purcell dropped his plans to sell to Pahlisch and instead is now selling to a homeowners association in the area.

The area in question is located about 1 mile south of the Old Mill District, west of Brookswood Boulevard, close to the covered portion of the irrigation district canal. Pahlisch will keep the trails in the area so walkers and bicycle riders can still have access to the Deschutes River from Brookswood, said Horrell.

Don Horton, the executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District, said he has had conversations with the irrigation district about the park district owning or managing a portion of the property for public use. But buying the property and turning it into a large public park similar to Shevlin Park or Riley Ranch just isn’t financially viable.

“We are not in a financial position to (acquire the land) without a funding source such as a bond measure,” said Horton. “It’s valuable for residential development and will sell at residential land prices.”

While streets, sidewalks, houses, and other infrastructure may one day be built in the area, and plenty of trees will need to be cut to make room for it all, Horrell believes the current trail system will remain intact.

“Pahlisch Homes has agreed to maintain all those trails there and along the canals, so it’s going to keep the same trail system on the river,” said Horrell.

Jessica Seidel, senior director of marketing for Pahlisch Homes, said the homebuilder has “no immediate plans” for developing the property and does not know how many homes could eventually be built there.

“It will be many years before a development plan takes shape, at which point we will engage the community as we always do and will follow all city development processes,” said Seidel. “Pahlisch is also committed to honoring all COIDs past commitments on trail usage.”

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Reporter: 541-617-7818,

mkohn@bendbulletin.com

(12) comments

CentralOregonFred

Maybe the aggrieved HOAs can get together and buy the land from COID. Then they can do whatever they want with it. The arrogance of some people that think they can dictate what other landowners do with their property, merely to cater to their own wishes and desires, is astounding.

102679

The City of Bend should not allow this project (in whole or in part) until they commit to provide real, practical mass transit. (I say this knowing full well that the CoB and the CET who currently provide token "transit" in the city are two different entities.) I agree that encouraging practical bicycle use is a laudable goal, but for most Bendites, it's not a 12-month solution. Bend's current transit solution of infrequent ICE buses needs a re-think from top to bottom.

Some might say that by bringing up transit / transportation I'm changing the topic away from land use. Nothing could be further from the truth. Increased traffic and congestion (results that will negatively affect ALL citizens of Bend) will be the major outcome of dense developments such as this. Let's divert some of those infrastructure dollars to model a forward-looking, free to all citizens, all-electric transit system for a small city. Put Bend in the lead.

guest2138

The entire community will benefit from keeping this unique wildlife corridor, with cliffs overlooking the river and trails meandering through trees, undeveloped and open for recreation. In its 2018 Comprehensive Plan, BPRD revealed that in a survey of Bend residents, 79% of households named soft surface trails as needed and 74% ranked natural area parks as needed. In fact, people said these were the two highest park elements they need and these are exactly what this land affords.

Imagine what Bend would be like if City leaders hadn’t had the foresight to preserve the land that became Shevlin Park? Having natural open space right in the City is one of the things that makes Bend special. Making South Deschutes Canyon a park will deliver major environmental benefits, reducing the number of vehicle miles people East of the river travel to enjoy trails overlooking and leading to the Deschutes. Preserving the land’s mature trees will help mitigate Bend’s deadly urban heat island effect – ranked 14th worse in the U.S. ahead of much larger cities like Cleveland (population 1.7 million) and Detroit. The City of Bend and Bend Park and Recreation (BPRD) should do everything they can to stop the land's sale to Pahlisch and make it a natural area park. Bend is a great city of creative thinkers and lovers of its natural landscape. Let’s put our heads together to find a way to preserve this irreplaceable natural space!

69660

Additionally, Then approach the irrigation district and suggest to them that they use some of the proceeds from the sale to pipe more for their wasteful canals.

69660

Third try. Perhaps the neighbors should consider forming a LID (local improvement district) which would add a tax to their property tax and buy some of the land for additional green space. Then work with the developer on this idea.

87102

The city council says they want to prioritize actions that mitigate global warming and increase transport by other means than car, this project will go contrary to both goals. This project will pave over this large forest area with big ponderosa trees that helps cooling the city. They talk about preserving some trails (the gravel path connects to other path of the city), but having a bike path surrounded by homes and crisscrossed by streets is not the same as the nature trails down there now where you can walk your dog off leash with no worry about cars.

69559

Looking on Zillow for the current price of bare lots in that area, you might get the impression that the land is worth upwards of $1million per acre.

Why the fire sale price?

Transitory Inflation

Bemoaning affordability and homelessness and resisting new supply? :chefskiss:

BuckeyeDuck

[thumbup]

guest2138

Thousands of new housing units are in the planning stages nearby in the property adjacent to the Crux, Box Factory and Spoken Moto. All for smart growth in areas that don't destroy wildlife corridors and nature trails. The issue people need to be looking into is what is the City doing to ensure that new development will actually add to the affordable housing stock. I've listened to a lot of developer presentations and what I heard is new housing will be market value meaning not affordable to the working people of Bend.

91311

I would love to voice my opposition to and help raise awareness about this development as well. Can someone advise the appropriate channel to do so? Thank you.

87102

Check out savebendgreenspace.org, they could use your help!

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