I have some insights into the opposition by local residents to the building of the OSU-Cascades campus. From 1973 to 2000, I was a professor of finance at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, as well as the principal developer of new rental properties close to campus from 1995 to 2005.
For those unfamiliar with Pullman, the campus borders the downtown area. The reason for this proximity is that the state of Washington granted hundreds of acres of land in 1890 for the university when there were only 250 to 300 inhabitants. There was no opposition because people wanted some economic base there.
Despite the fact that only about 10 percent of the buildings close to the WSU campus are occupied by local residents as opposed to students, my developments were fought “tooth and nail.”
The College Hill Association hired a lawyer and engineer, and false rumors were spread. The claims included huge potential traffic jams, unsafe streets, inadequate parking and destruction of valuable animal habitat. On one project, they got 154 unknowing people to send postcards to the mayor protesting the development. Some protesters were my neighbors and friends who didn’t bother to study the issues, and I was not identified as the developer.
None of this, unfortunately, was true. I hired lawyers, biologists and traffic experts, and the NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) lost every case. Sometimes it delayed me, and it did cost me money.
I even had some dirty tricks played. One of my parcels had a 1930s shared easement for a truck garden, which was to be used as city required green space. The day before the city was to issue the building permit, the joint tenant (WSU professors) complained to the city that the easement was for vehicles, though they would never use it. The city then withheld the permit until I downsized the project.
The approach by the NIMBYs was to use every possible argument whether it was based upon fact or not. They even took every chance they could to bring my developments before the City Council.
I tried meeting with my opponents but finally concluded that they didn’t want to be educated about my project — they wanted to stop them. On my next-to-last project, I had planned to build some really nice, fairly expensive two-story townhouses that required extensive retaining walls and relocating a city sewer.
The City Council needed to approve the sewer move. When the CHA members found out about the sewer relocation, they decided to fight it. Well, I was so fed up that I scrapped the townhouses and built one long, four-story-high building, which was more profitable, could be finished more quickly and didn’t require City Council approval.
Interestingly, my last project was saving the most prominent private landmark in Pullman, the old Greystone Church. It had been vacant for 25 years, was condemned by the city and had 3 feet of pigeon dung. The stone structure with huge stained-glass windows was 65 feet high with steep gables and turrets. I became a hero.
Just so you don’t think I am some uncaring, quick-profits developer, I belong to many environmental organizations, including The Nature Conservancy and The Wilderness Society.
Comparing building a university in Pullman when the land was given in 1890 to Bend is not a fair comparison. My experience is that students will want to be near where the action is. The current OSU-Cascades location puts them near downtown, bike trails, the Deschutes River and Mt. Bachelor. The silent majority in Bend likely supports the location, and any large development will generate opposition.
The campus will prove to be a valuable asset to Bend and attract more educated people and many higher-paying jobs.
— Glenn Petry lives in Bend.