Group forms against OSU-Cascades site

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A group opposing the OSU-Cascades site on the west side is raising $50 grand to hire a lawyer and make the new campus move. While Oregon State University-Cascades may have signed the dotted line to purchase their 10-acre land parcel off Chandler Avenue, Truth in Site hopes to move the future OSU-Cascades campus to somewhere in the commercial district of Bend. Their reasons include a potentially unsupportable impact on their local infrastructure, a detrimental influence on schools in the area and the site itself.

Bend community voices concerns over impact of proposed OSU-Cascades expansion
Bend community voices concerns over impact of proposed OSU-Cascades expansion

Population impact concerns

Recently, Truth in Site has been holding meetings in attempts to move the site. But according to OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson, careful planning went into the current location.

“We had conversations, probably for over a year, about the kind of campus we wanted to have,” Johnson said. “We were persuaded that having a more integrated, urban campus would be more desirable than the traditional suburban campus.”

In the OSU-Cascades site selection process, the university looked at commute and transportation factors.

“We wanted to be more in the heart of town, where students and faculty could bike to campus rather than getting in their car,” Johnson said.

Truth in Site claims that with many schools nearby, Cascades students would compete with other traffic, according to Greg Knowles, a financial contributor to Truth in Site. In late March, Knowles sent a letter to Bend city councilors asking for a relocation of the site.

One of Knowles concerns at that time was that with several K-12 schools close by, the area cannot support more education facilities. Knowles estimated that there are close to 4,000 children in schools on the west side, and that it would impact traffic to have more students traveling to OSU-Cascades every morning and afternoon.

More fundamentally, Knowles believes that the average college student’s lifestyle shouldn’t be in close proximity with families.

“It’s a reality that you’re going to have parties,” Knowles said. “There’s going to be that kind of activity in that area, and it’s not for appropriate for an area that has a lot of families and kids.”

Site concerns

Another concern raised by Truth in Site is the site itself. The adjacent location OSU-Cascades plans to purchase is “a toxic land site,” according to Truth in Site. The 46-acre parcel the university is planning to build on is the location of an old pumice mine.

However, the typography is manageable, according to Johnson.

“With today’s building technology, you can build on about any kind of site,” Johnson said. “There are cost implications, but we weren’t daunted by the pumice mine.”

A main concern from Truth in Site is also the limited span of acreage. With OSU-Cascades’ goal of 5,000 students on 56 acres, Truth in Site says there is “no place to grow.” This is not a new concern, according to Johnson.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, that’s not nearly enough space,’ as if we made up the number,” Johnson said. “We didn’t make it up. We hired experts in this area to tell us what would be required.”

Opponents of the land site have been pushing for a relocation to the east side of town.

The campus has been receiving several requests for the site to be moved to Juniper Ridge off Cooley Road, but that brings larger concerns, according to Johnson. Johnson estimates overhead costs precluding construction at Juniper Ridge to be anywhere between $30 and $40 million. While Juniper Ridge is located in the commercial part of town, the site does not have roads, sewer or water.

“It would be incredibly expensive. Whoever triggers that would pay those costs,” Johnson said.

The debate continues

Many of the current concerns have already been rebutted several times, according to Johnson.

“We’ve made all these arguments many, many times and people still say, ‘Well, we think you should be at Juniper Ridge,’” Johnson said.

OSU-Cascades would prefer working out concerns with Truth in Site to avoid legal processes, according to Johnson.

“I wish they would work with us to address the concerns around this site instead of just saying, ‘Go somewhere else,’” Johnson said. “By doing legal tactics, they are going to end up making us spend a lot of money on legal costs that could be spent on academics or scholarships.”

Junnelle Hogen | The Broadside
(Contact: jhogen@cocc.edu)

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