The Central Oregon Irrigation District wants to rezone roughly 36 acres of land east of Bend so housing could be allowed on it, but some neighbors oppose the idea, citing concerns about traffic and preserving open space.

On Wednesday, the Deschutes County Commission considered whether to change the zoning of the parcel of land, which sits east of town along Ward Road and abuts Hansen Park, from being designated as agricultural land to a zone called MUA-10, which means one house can be built per every 10 acres.

Craig Horrell, the managing director of the irrigation district, said the organization is asking for the change because the land, which is vacant, has never been used for farming and does not have soils that are able to support farming.

Currently, the irrigation district has no plans for development and has no intention to sell it at this time, Horrell told The Bulletin in an email.

Another reason to rezone the land is because of its proximity to the Bend city limits, he said. If the city chooses to expand its urban growth boundary this land will likely be brought in anyway.

“If it would have been zoned correctly, it would have been brought in and developed like the adjacent properties at that time,” Horrell said during the hearing Wednesday, referencing the last time Bend expanded its boundaries, in 2016.

But some who live near the property are against rezoning the land to allow housing. Some are concerned about the additional traffic it could bring to the area, saying current infrastructure around 27th Street can’t support more development.

Others don’t want development to disrupt wildlife and farming activities. Some simply don’t want development on the natural open space that attracted them to the area.

A petition circulated by one neighbor, Joshua Janes, garnered roughly 170 signatures of people against rezoning the property.

Janes said he and his partner, who live in Larkspur, just west of the land, chose the location because it is “a quiet, safe, and semi-rural neighborhood with a high quality of life and easy access to the rest of Bend”

“Rezoning will likely lead to a loss of the undeveloped open space to the east,” Janes wrote to the county in an email. “This is a beautiful resource for residents that offers a sense of connection to the environment and habitat for wildlife.”

Tia Lewis, the attorney representing Central Oregon Irrigation District in the request to change the zoning, said in the hearing that under the proposed new zone, the most that could be built on the property is three to seven homes. A traffic study suggests only 49 more car trips would be added to and from the area compared to what the land could produce currently as an agricultural zone.

But some residents are more concerned about what the land could be if it were annexed into the city some day.

“I think we can read between the lines that their goal will eventually be to develop this land one way or another,” Janes said.

Lewis also added that while people may consider the property open space, it is still private property.

“Referring to someone’s private property as your open space and asking the board (of commissioners) to protect that…if it were my property I’d find that offensive,” Lewis said.

There are ways to designate land for public use, Lewis said, but keeping the land zoned for agriculture when the soils cannot produce anything is not the way to do it.

“If we want to talk about open space in our community then, we should have conversations about what that means,” Lewis said.

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Reporter: 541-633-2160,

Brenna Visser has been a government reporter in Bend since 2019. When not busy reporting, you can find her hiking with her dog or systematically trying all of Bend's breweries.

(6) comments

Transitory Inflation

'“If it would have been zoned correctly, it would have been brought in and developed like the adjacent properties at that time,”'

hey buddy: Correctly = westside landowners converting forest land to USD with the green-wash nod from COLW. This eastside nub had nothing going for it but common sense.


Wouldn't it be great if there was a cap on growth and when there's no more space left, people just had to look elsewhere? The reason it's not that way...GREED


It would be great if you want to halt economic growth, degrade livability and city services, and make housing even more expensive.

Bendite '99

"Halt economic growth, degrade livability and city services" like in Malibu? How many people who want to live here should we plan for and accommodate?


Sure Rooney, it would be great if people just stopped having babies too! So where else can people look? No one wants growth (so use birth control) and no one wants sprawl. It’s the typical stance from many Oregonians.

Transitory Inflation

I regret my post from this morning but cannot delete it. In any case, it is an incomplete (and of course cynical) framing of the 2004 through 2016 process of the last UGB expansion.  I do realize that the county would have had to change zoning to the 'correct' zoning in 2016 in order for this tract to come in. Still, there were 12 ******* years to do the right thing on this COID tract in the lead up to 2016. And that was of course not a political priority and would have likely come at the expense of the founding families payday, by shrinking the westside annex in equal measure.

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