“Save the golf course!” Save River’s Edge!” read lawn signs that have proliferated across west Bend.

The signs are a component of community organizing being done by residents of the River’s Edge in an effort to halt the conversion of the public 18-hole River’s Edge Golf Course into housing.

Pahlisch Homes announced plans to purchase the golf course from CMW Development owner Wayne Purcell earlier this year. If the sale goes through, Pahlisch Homes intends to convert half of the golf course into nearly 400 homes, many of which would be middle-income housing.

Now, several homeowners who recently moved to River’s Edge are suing Pahlisch Homes and CMW Development.

The homeowners complaint?

When they purchased their homes near the golf course over the past 16 months, the homes were advertised as having golf course views and as being near a golf course.

That advertising was akin to a legally binding promise — or, “equitable servitude” — according to lead plaintiff Jeffrey Kramer, 70, a retired lawyer of nearly 40 years and former Malibu, California, mayor who retired to River’s Edge in April, 2020.

According to Kramer, equitable servitude is a “fairness doctrine” in the context of real property. What it means, in short, is that if promises are made and people are made to rely on those promises, then the people who were given those promises have a right to enforce them, Kramer said.

“We moved into our homes on the promise of Pahlisch that we would be given golf course views and surrounded by a golf course,” Kramer said. “Then Pahlisch announced that they would plow up the golf course. That’s not what we were promised.”

The plaintiff’s complaint is strengthened, Kramer said, by another local case. In Mountain High Homeowners Association v. Ward, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Deschutes County homeowners association suing the owner of Old Back Nine Golf Course over similar issues.

Kramer said the argument in the River’s Edge case is even more compelling than it was in Mountain High due to thorough advertising.

“There were flyers advertising our homes would have golf course views,” he said. “It was described as a secluded community. The website had a picture of a golf course. The streets themselves are named after golf themes.

“Everything about it screamed golf.”

The plaintiffs are being represented by Martin Hansen, a Bend attorney who was involved in the Mountain High case.

If the plaintiffs win, Kramer said that the golf course would legally need to be maintained in perpetuity, no matter who owns it in the future.

“If we five plaintiffs win, everybody benefits because the golf course remains for everyone,” he said.

The case is in arbitration, and Kramer expects an arbitration hearing by year’s end and a decision soon after.

“I feel very confident about the case,” he said. “Our facts are compelling. We’re not asking for anything we weren’t sold on when buying our houses. I have yet to hear from Pahlisch or Purcell any dissents. We still don’t know what their arguments are, and frankly, I don’t think they could make a compelling one.”

Jessica Seidel, senior director of marketing for Pahlisch Homes, declined to comment on litigation, citing company policy.

In addition to benefiting River’s Edge homeowners, saving the golf course benefits all Bend residents because less housing equals less traffic in the area, more wildlife and more scenic views, plaintiffs argue.

Supporters of the River’s Edge development plan point to Bend’s housing crisis as a viable reason for converting the golf course into housing. The median price of a single-family home in Bend in July was $650,000, up $10,000 from June’s median price, and housing has become nearly impossible for some to find.

The River’s Edge plan calls for at least 50% of the proposed 372 homes to be middle-income, which includes a range of housing at different price points in an effort to accommodate a variety of housing needs.

“(Pahlisch) remains very committed to developing River’s Edge,” said Seidel. “We’re going to do it thoughtfully with input from the community. We feel this development is an important part of helping Bend address its housing crisis. And we know that every unit of housing we can add in the community helps create more attainable housing for everyone.

“We’re taking seriously our responsibility to be the next generation of stewards of this unique part of Bend,” Seidel continued. “We know that’s why Wayne Purcell personally came to us to ensure any future development was done right and by a builder with deep roots in the Bend community.”

Seidel said Pahlisch hosted a productive meeting with River’s Edge community members in June, and that another one is planned for the fall.

“One of the things we heard clearly is the community’s understanding of the importance of more missing middle housing in Bend, which is a key part of our vision for this project,” Seidel said.

Additionally, the meetings are meant to show the community that they’re part of the planning process, Seidel said.

Plaintiff and River’s Edge resident Chris Walton, however, doesn’t feel included.

Walton, 51, who leads an accounting group for a large lumber company, moved to River’s Edge with his wife in April 2020.

The Waltons used to live in Portland and vacationed in Bend for some 20 years for its outdoor recreation.

After seeing an ad for a River’s Edge home that emphasized its proximity to the golf course, the Waltons decided to move.

Shortly after settling in, however, they learned about the sale between Pahlisch and Purcell.

“The day that they announced the sale, it was tragic,” Walton said. “There were lots of tears. It was traumatic for the community. We lost a lot of trust for Pahlisch and Purcell.”

Walton said he wrote a heartfelt letter to Pahlisch Homes but never received a response.

River’s Edge residents turned to litigation and community organizing, Walton said, with Kramer spearheading litigation and Walton community organizing.

“We’ve been canvassing door to door, sending emails, educating people about what’s going to happen,” Walton said. “It’s a public golf course. It’s been around for many years. It’s an establishment in Bend. People care deeply about it.”

Walton said that organizing has become his second job.

“This isn’t what I wanted,” he said. “I wanted to get here and sit on the back patio, drink a beer, hit a few balls and just enjoy life. The house was advertised for its patio and golf course view. I bought the house so I could do just that: sit on the patio and watch the golf course.”

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Reporter: 503-380-5285,

djefferies@bendbulletin.com

(17) comments

BENDISGREAT99

Dismay at future of River's Edge

As a resident of Awbrey Butte, I have followed the news about the planned conversion of the iconic River’s Edge golf course into a residential development with dismay. The shock to residents who only recently bought homes on the golf course from the same developer who now plans to destroy that golf course is particularly disheartening.

Citizen involvement can make a difference. What the people fighting to save River’s Edge need is a rallying cry — a call to action — The Ballad of River’s Edge: https://tinyurl.com/golfedge.

The images accompanying the ballad are a combination of historical and current photographs, as well as a dystopian vision of what the future holds for this environmentally sensitive landmark if it can’t be saved. The ballad, which is sung to the tune of an old Irish folk song, was composed and is performed by myself, a member of a 1960’s folk group who has come out of retirement to lend my voice to the cause.

Please feel free to share and use this video as you see fit.

— Tom Farrell, Bend

WebSlinger

"Of the MLS listings Pahlisch produced, 69 of the original listings refer to the golf course as a key amenity. Of these, 24 (!) were scrubbed of their golf course references in June 2020. We know from a non-confidential document produced to us by Purcell that, at the time of the scrubbing, Pahlisch and Purcell were in serious discussions regarding an imminent sale of the golf course. And although they scrubbed the MLS listings, we have yet to hear from anyone purchasing these homes before the public announcement of the sale on April 26, 2021 that Pahlisch or Purcell told them anything about the sale of the golf course or their planned destruction of it for 370 homes and townhomes. Why didn’t they tell people? We bet you know the answer to this question too." https://saveriversedge.org/2021/08/scrubbing-away-the-rivers-edge-golf-course/

julieR

With 372 new homes, what will happen to the intersection of Mt. Washington and 3rd Street?

56396

476% Increase in Traffic

Based on a report by a transportation engineering firm Pahlisch hired to analyze additional traffic from developing the River's Edge golf course into 370 homes and townhomes there will be a 476% increase in traffic. Below is the hard data from the traffic study commissioned by Pahlisch.

Current River’s Edge Golf Course, Weekly Daily trips = 547

Replacing the River’s Edge Golf Course with homes and townhomes, Weekly Daily Trips = 3,155

Net additional daily trips after development = 2,608 or 476% increase from today

For more information visit SaveRiversEdge.org

ReimagineBend

seems a well connected river trail with other open space the community can use AND housing would be of much better benefit to the community. Wealthy landowners behaving like this is exactly why we have a housing problem. Maybe they should consider not living in one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Infill development w/ planned community open space is THE BEST way to preserve open space around bend and reduce traffic by allowing people to live close in. These homeowners need to stop being so selfish and think of the greater good.

69214

I still say we pipe the Deschutes through town and build row housing.

91184

If the plaintiffs win, will this set a precedent that the owner of the golf course will have to keep operating it despite not wanting to run the business anymore? What does "in perpetuity" mean exactly? Will the City or Parks & Rec be forced to purchase the golf course and turn into a municipal course? I don't see how lawsuits like these benefit anyone but the current homeowners. People need to resist pulling up the ladder behind them and making Bend worse for everyone in the process.

Fkmiller

Dialogue between Pahlisch executives:

"Oh I'm sorry, I think you've confused us for someone who cares. . . muawahahaha." Pahlisch Senior Director of Land Development Jerry Jones, commenting on likely community push-back from lining the 15th fairway with homes. "Hahaha." Pahlisch Senior Director of Sales Chris Kincaid, responding to his colleague Jerry Jones.

56396

Glimpses Into The Soul of a Developer https://saveriversedge.org/2021/08/pahlisch-soul/

Fkmiller

Excerpts from non-confidential dialogue between Pahlisch executives:

"Oh I'm sorry, I think you've confused us for someone who cares. . . muawahahaha." Pahlisch Senior Director of Land Development Jerry Jones, commenting on likely community push-back from lining the 15th fairway with homes. "Hahaha." Pahlisch Senior Director of Sales Chris Kincaid, responding to his colleague Jerry Jones. Imagine the dialogue in the confidential documents. Is this a company that cares about the community? Is this a company from which you should buy a home?

56396

Glimpses Into The Soul of a Developer https://saveriversedge.org/2021/08/pahlisch-soul/

MatthewC

A bunch of California retirees suing to keep a golf course they don't own to the detriment of the rest of the community is modern Bend in a nutshell.

If they want to sue some private company for money, whatever. If they want something they do not own that sucks up valuable resources from the community kept frozen in time forever for their own selfish pleasure, they can really just shut up and move back to California.

CentralOregonFred

Yup. The dismay of a bunch of rich people over losing their views of something as useless as a golf course, which is owned by someone else, is near the bottom on the list of things I worry about. They can buy the land if they want to dictate how it's used. I'm sorry, but adjacent land gets developed in this fast-growing town all the time, and we need the housing more than a water-wasting rich person's playground.

Pnwhof

As much as I dislike anti-CA rhetoric (because many newbies are from OR - one interviewee was from PDX and WA), this does ring a bit true. Isn't it more about NIMBY-ism than anything else? A common sentiment rippling through Bend as building happens all over the community.

I think the glaring contradiction is, as Wickiup is being shut down and the North District Canal is being shut off because of water shortages, why is there even a question about the preservation of a golf course?

BENDISGREAT99

Pahlisch's representative Jessica Seidel, ignores the fact that Pahlisch and Wayne Purcell marketed and sold homes on golf course in the River's Edge Village golf course community to these homeowners within the past year or less. Jessica tries to spin the story that Pahlisch is here to provide middle housing. Nothing could be further from the truth, Pahlisch is currently marketing homes in River's Edge from the middle $850,000s, with most homes being marketed closer to $1 million or more. Is that middle housing? Pahlisch is clearly all about the money, and ignores the implicit and explicit promises made to the homeowners in this article.

91184

The new homes they plan to build could still be more affordable. Developers sell many different types of homes at different price points.

MatthewC

The homeowners should then be able to sue Pahlisch for money. They should not be able to dictate to the city in perpetuity how land they do not own is used.

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