Yard signs are springing up in Bend residential neighborhoods whose forested character is being threatened by a proposed real estate development called West View. This 6.51 -acre development would sit on the western slope of Awbrey Butte along Glassow Drive — a quiet roadway popular with neighborhood walkers and bicyclists.
The objection is not over development per se, which local residents knew would eventually happen. Nor is it about increased density. The concern is over the scale of the project and its lack of fit with the surrounding neighborhoods, physical environment and supporting infrastructure. The general opinion is that while density can be done well, this isn’t it.
As proposed by Glenn Kotara and Mark Huffman, dba Oregon Builders Developers LLC, the development includes 42 units (townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes) on 29 lots, some as small as 2,264 square feet. The development plan designates 753 trees for removal.
This stands in marked contrast to the encircling neighborhoods, which are exclusively single family homes on quiet streets surrounded by mature juniper and ponderosa pines.
The developers’ plan came as a shock to local residents who had been told in 2020 the subdivision would consist of single family homes which is typical in Bend’s standard residential zones. But with the passage of House Bill 2001 (designed to create affordable housing), and its unquestioned adoption by the city of Bend, the developers were emboldened to shift the focus to multiunit dwellings, at a density the property cannot support, and at a price middle income families cannot afford ($1 million and up).
The yard signs read “West View is 2 Big!” Many of the issues local residents have with the proposal stem from that fact. At 6.45 units per acre, West View falls at the high end of the city’s specified density range (4.0 to 7.3 dwellings per acre). By the developers’ own estimates, this unleashes an additional 322 vehicle trips per day on Awbrey Butte streets, some of which have grades as steep as 18 degrees and are particularly dangerous when covered by snow and ice in the winter. Drainage issues are significant given the site’s steep and rocky nature. Where will runoff from storms and snowmelt go when an estimated 100,000 -plus square feet of hard surfaces are added? Downhill neighbors are reasonably concerned runoff will flow into their lots, garages and homes. These issues could be significantly alleviated by de-densifying the development down to the 27-unit minimum specified by the city code.
About those 753 trees slated for the chainsaw? Many Bendites were appalled by the total tree removal that occurred at NW Shevlin Park Road and McClain Drive. As documented in Karon Johnson’s “Proposal for Revised Tree Preservation” (tabled by City Council) that travesty was hardly an exception. For years the city code has provided virtually no protection for trees, specifying only that all significant trees should be retained “if practicable.” Developers tend to interpret this as carte blanche for clear cutting.
The irony is that Bend has been a designated Tree City USA since 1991. David Nowak, senior scientist for the U.S. Forest Service, notes that “trees in urban areas reduce air temperatures, shade surfaces and consequently alter building energy use. On a per tree basis — urban trees offer the greatest potential to reduce climate change as not only do they sequester carbon, but they also can provide a permanent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through reduced energy use.”
Like many of the other issues surrounding West View, the “need” for tree removal is significantly lessened by decreasing the density. It is time for Glenn Kotara and Mark Huffman to step up in a socially responsible manner and de-densify their proposal, making it consistent with the stated purpose of the Bend Development Code which calls for “ compatible building and site design at an appropriate neighborhood scale which reflects the neighborhood character.”