Monday, December 29, 2008
Couple of notes on first read:
1) It is dated 12/19/08, after the initial 12/15/08 statement.
2) The retainer was $275,000 or $250,000. It's unclear, as one clause says Sussman Shank has received $275,000 before the filing, and another states "...retainer in the sum of $250,000."
3) Of the 20 largest unsecured debts, all from unfinished exchanges, only three are from Oregon: the Tennant's in Portland, $1.035.266.66; Home Valley Bank in Grants Pass, $547,936.88; and the Miller's in Bend, $756,598.82. The other 17 are scattered around the west.
4) A rough tally of the total owed to the top 20 creditors is $21,560,550. The largest creditor is the Alessandro Family Trust, from Rancho Santa Fe, CA, at $2,999,961.
5) The four principals-Neuman, Stevens, Lyon, and Larkin-each own 25% of the company.
The matrix of debtors is not included, so there is a lot more not shown. I'll try to get it from the court.
After I run OCR on the filing I'll update the download with a copy that is searchable.
Many thanks to Ryan Frank at the Oregonian for forwarding this to me. He has a copy and a post about it on his blog as well: blog.oregonlive.com/frontporch/
Manager sought for Juniper Ridge
Bend hoping to find development specialist for project
With a large amount of infrastructure work to complete, ongoing transportation-related holdups and a second business set to move in, Bend officials are looking for some outside help with the commercial development of Juniper Ridge.
Currently, the city’s 1,500-acre project in northeast Bend is managed by a large and sometimes confusingly structured group of people that includes the Bend City Council, city officials, the project’s former master developer and the Juniper Ridge Management Board, a five-member volunteer group of residents with experience in business, development and government.
But now, city officials are looking to bring in another person to serve as Juniper Ridge’s development manager, a contract position city officials said will be key in helping to organize future land deals with businesses interested the project and oversee other elements of its development...
This will be the fourth or fifth group brought in to move JR forward, depending on if you count the Juniper Ridge Management Board (JRMB). We are still paying Juniper Ridge Partners i.e. Ray Kuratek and Jeff Holtzman (JRP) 6% of every sale of the first 50 acres sold beyond the 20 acres that Les Schwab bought and optioned, per the Option Agreement. This is on top of the $2,515,000 paid to JRP for turning over the Master Plan they developed with Cooper-Robertson.
Three firms were interviewed on a full blizzard of a day in Bend: "James “Jim” Carnahan, a Bend development manager and engineer who formerly worked with David Evans and Associates; Dike Dame, the president of Williams & Dame, the Portland firm that developed the Broken Top golf resort; and David Ditz, a Colorado-based development company owner."
According to John James, Chair of the JRMB:
“The city wears two hats — the city’s normal situation is the regulator, which they do well, and also the developer, and they don’t do that as well,” James said.
“The idea is to get someone independent, from the development community to report to Eric (King) and this board and try to get all the infrastructure and entitlement issues taken care of, which are significant in 2009.”
City manager Eric King indicated the Development Manager would be paid from money budgeted for Juniper Ridge operations.
Due to the blizzard, I stayed home after seeing five accidents within six blocks of Brookswood. More when I speak with Mr. James and read the meeting minutes.
Unfortunately the minutes will probably not be available until after the selection vote by the City Council.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
This item is a Code change that will give developers an unlimited number of extensions on their approved plans, even if there are changes in the applicable criteria.
The reason for providing additional extensions as needed is stated in the Transmittal Memo provided to the Planning Commission:
DISCUSSION: Because of the current economic crisis, many developers are unable to execute their approved planning permits, which requires the initiation of construction. These developers intend to build their projects and desire to keep their planning approvals active until the market allows them the financial ability to submit their building permits, pay their SDCs and commence construction. As the economic climate continues to stagnate, these developers are approaching the end of their one-year extensions. The proposed Code amendment will give the City Council the ability to recognize the economic environment of today as a reason to authorize one or more additional extensions.So, in fewer words, developers are nearing two years since gaining their approvals, and still can't find financing with which to actually start building. They have already received a one-year extension on the original one-year approval period, and want more time. As much as they need.
Now this may be well and good for the developers, and perhaps even for the city if these developments, like Mercado, eventually gain financing and are built. The city stands to eventually gain income from permit fees and SDC fees when the developers finally find financing. If the underlying economic reasons for these developments continue to exist, of course.
But before we get to the question of the underlying economics to further development in Bend, lets look more closely at the legally required public process being followed to implement these code changes. From the already posted official Recommendation to the City Council
CONCLUSIONSo what exactly is this public record? After all, the first I have heard of this is in a comment on the BendBubble2 blog.
On the basis of this record, there is a public need or benefit for the requested text amendments to the City of Bend Development Code, the request is consistent with the applicable State land use law, and the request is consistent with the applicable Bend Area General Plan goals and policies.
Looking at the recommendation again, it states before the conclusion that:
1. The applicant, City of Bend Planning Division, initiated the Development Code text amendment on November 5, 2008.Re-read item 3, noting the date.
2. The application was submitted in accordance with Section 4.1.300 of the Bend Development Code. Timely and sufficient notice of the public hearing, pursuant to Section 4.1.315 of the Bend Development Code, has been provided.
3. On December 8, 2008, the City of Bend Planning Commission conducted a public hearing to accept testimony on the request. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Planning Commission voted to recommend that the Bend City Council approve the proposed text amendment. The Planning Division staff report and recommendation together with the testimony of the persons testifying at this hearing have been considered and are part of the record of this proceeding.
Yes, on the day this recommendation is going to be voted on and submitted to the City Council for a rubber stamp vote, a public hearing will be held and the city staff already knows what will be said in the public hearing. And they know how the Planning Commission voted.
Amazingly prescient. These city staff guys are good, no?
Or are they just trying to sneak something through without real public review, but only the appearance of a public process?
Let's look at the actual code change, to see what really is being proposed:
So we see the power of granting unlimited extensions, even if "applicable criteria" change, devolve into the hands of a single person--Mel Oberst, Director of Community Development. To me, Mel is one of the good guys, but this is disturbing.
Proposed Bend Development Code Text Amendment
(New language is underlined; deleted language is struck-through)
PlanningCommunity Development Director may grant one extension of up to one year for a land usedevelopment approval or a phase of a land usedevelopment approval, unless the applicable criteria have changed,if:
a. An applicant makes a written request for an extension of the development approval period; and
b. The request, along with the prescribed fee, is submitted to the city prior to the expiration of the approval period.
2. The Community Development Director may grant one or more additional extensions beyond one year if authorized by a City Council resolution which recognizes a city-wide need for an additional limited-duration extension. The additional extension may be granted if:
a. The applicant has exhausted all other extension opportunities; and
b. The applicant satisfies the submittal requirements of (1)(a) and (b) of this section.
Is this good for Bend?
Should we have a more open public process before making such decisions that impact our city income and landscape?
If you think so, you should go to the City Council bio page, where you can click through to each members bio and email address, and tell them you ARE paying attention.
Also send emails to the following staff, asking them about the public process and how you can be involved:
This ongoing trait of minimal public involvement in city decisions must come to an end if we are to survive the current financial crisis. With good management, realistic management, we will work towards filling all the commercial and residential real estate that is empty now, rather than trying to build our way out of this mess.
Sanity must prevail in the long run.
Monday, November 10, 2008
A much more egregious issue is power to the site. As Chair John James noted, if they can't turn on the lights, they ain't going to come (my interpretation) and it ensued that Pacific Power is at least 18 months away from building a substation to provide power for anyone other than Les Schwab. Suterra is going to require a special temporary line, the payment for which will be an issue, for whatever power they end up needing. There was discussion of whether Suterra is expecting power to their property line. No one really had an answer. Angie from Pacific Power roughly estimated cost of a temporary solution at around $100,000.
Suterra seems to be very less than forthcoming with its power consumption figures. They are designing an entirely new manufacturing process, and although both the city and Pacific Power have been repeatedly requesting power load information, they just today supplied a partial answer. They don't seem to really know.
There was also a few minutes spent on the issue of architectural review of the Suterra facility. It was decided that city staff would lead this, and everyone else would rubber stamp it.
But the most interesting thing was that issue nobody wanted to talk about publically: there is still no Suterra Purchase and Sales Agreement signed by both parties.
Even though I was provided a copy that was signed by one Craig Cooper, SVP of Suterra, LLC. It was not signed by Eric King, City Manager.
Which seems very odd to me.
I was then booted from the room because they started an Executive Session to discuss this issue.
To be continued...
Monday, November 3, 2008
The pad looks finished:
Knife River heavy equipment all lined up and looking ready to load up:
Suterra hopes to start the foundation as soon as the zoning change being voted on Wednesday night is in force, perhaps as soon as Nov. 12. The city is responsible for running roads, sewer and water, at a projected cost of $3.5M.
My next post will go over some details of financing Juniper Ridge development and compare that to the cost to the General Fund, and how it affects the rest of the citizens of Bend.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
One of the sources of this $50M will be the trip fees paid by users ranging from Suterra to Super Walmart. It is anticipated that their will be 2900 trips available, with a per trip cost of $9000. The City of Bend will pay $3000 of this fee. The total available from these fees is about $26M, a little over one-half of the required $50M. That means Bend taxpayers will be paying another $8.7M towards Juniper Ridge buildout in "helping out" the companies that want to build around Cooley/97. That includes Super Walmart.
This "co-pay" was first discussed in an Executive Session which was broadcast into the hallway by mistake, which I happened to overhear. That is illegal, and is definitely an issue going forward. As is calling in Suterra to an Executive Session to discuss their financing capabilities before the no public discussion, no public comment council vote on the sale of city land to Suterra.
This abuse of Executive Sessions simply must be confronted and stopped before the installation of the next City Council.
The city anticipates that the other $24M will come from land sales at JR and from bonds supported by the JR redevelopment district. However so far land sales have resulted in multi-million dollar losses due to the cost of infrastructure improvements agreed to by the city.
The next steps to developing JR including such mundane but detail specific items as overlaying streets, working with Pacific Power on a substation, and working with yet more consultants on design standards and CC&R's. The JRMB anticipates meeting at least twice a month through the end of the year to move these items along.
Also high on the agenda are two upcoming meetings with the Oregon Transportation Commission. For the first meeting on Nov. 13th the city plans to present a general overview of its plans to improve surface streets in the vicinity so less traffic will be pushed to Cooley/97. The second meeting in January will flesh this proposal out by identifying specific funding sources to actually build these streets. These meetings will be preceded by a North End stakeholders meeting on Nov. 6th, showing maps of the planned surface street and other improvements.
The next JRMB meeting is Nov. 10th. It is an open public meeting, and while not explicitly encouraged, the public is officially welcome. Meeting details are way down on the right side of this city web site: http://www.ci.bend.or.us/depts/urban_renewal_economic_development/index.html
Friday, October 24, 2008
Suterra Sale and Purchase Agreement
Went out to the worksite earlier today and I am amazed at how far along Suterra is on site preparation. There were approximately 20 pieces of heavy equipment breaking rock and moving rock and dirt. If you go out to the new Les Schwab building at the east of Cooley and turn north at the double roundabout, the Suterra site is about 800 yards north. Here are a couple pics:
There was so much going on I didn't want to get too close. I'll try again this weekend.
According to the Sale Agreement, Suterra has had site access since Oct. 4th in anticipation of an agreement. They want to be in the facility next summer-fall from what I've read.
On another Suterra note, Buster has flipped into full research mode on Suterra spraying their Checkmate products from the air in the Bay Area. The stated purpose is to control the Light Brown Apple Moth. There is far more controversy than anyone knows about, including lawsuits, injunctions, city resolutions, state and federal intervention, secret hazardous ingredients, sealing of court records, etc. See the comments at BB2's last post for a whole lot more. It's rather disturbing.
There are plenty of very unhappy folks in the Monterey and Santa Cruz areas over this matter. They've even set up several dedicated websites:
For more info here is a Google search for "lbam spray".
I really hope Suterra is a good neighbor to us here in Bend. This kind of stuff is where public process really needs to be proactive. I will further such efforts after the election, so as not to inadvertently help even more pro-development candidates get elected. Candidates like Tom Greene, Don Leonard. Kathie Eckman, and Jeff Eager.
If you have had it up to here with the Council, please consider writing me--Bruce Ewert--in for Position 3. I know I'll get at least one vote :) And I will be in a position to be even more proactive about ending the abuse of Executive Sessions.
There was a ton of activity around the Les Schwab building as well, including a couple of moving trucks that look to be bringing in office equipment. They look really close to moving in. I'll try to get pics soon, without all the trucks and other equipment.
Juniper Ridge is moving forward fast. Here's to keeping it much more public and making sure it doesn't bankrupt the City.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Only four of the seven Councilors actually made it to the special Joint Session of the Bend Urban Renewal Agency and the City Council (BURA is the City Council), with Councilor Friedman attending via conference call. Councilors Abernethy and Clinton were not in attendance.
Once again a disheartening level of secrecy surrounded a transaction at Juniper Ridge. The meeting was called to order by Councilor Telfer and immediately recessed into Executive Session "to discuss real estate issues" for almost an hour. Suterra executives and EDCO director Roger Lee left he executive session early, and then the Suterra execs were summoned back into the Executive Session again by Economic Development Director John Russell. When the execs came back out 15 minutes later, they were complaining to each other about being questioned so strongly on the subject of being able to finance their project.
The Purchase and Sale Agreement was not available to the public before, during and after the vote on the agreement, and there was no public hearing held before the vote on the agreement, which passed 5-0 on the condition that Suterra provides adequate proof of financing capability to the City. There were public hearings held on the two topics regarding financing issues, specifically to allow the entire purchase price plus another $200,000 from the General Fund to be transferred to the BURA Juniper Ridge Construction Budget to build out the area. The City will also not pay itself over a million dollars in SDC's related to the Les Schwab purchase until some future date, will maintain it's $6 million line of credit until some future date, and will continue paying the $120,000 per year in interest on the line of credit.
No public comments were made. The meeting was not held at the normal time of Council meetings, but rather at 4 PM on the fourth Wednesday of the month, and virtually no public was in attendance. The three votes and all council discussion took about 20 minutes. Most questioning was by Councilor Telfer regarding taking monies from the General Fund for this project. Telfer was the only Councilor to vote no on any of the three issues. Finance Director Sonia Andrews stated that the City could increase it's line of credit by $200,000, but that it was easier to take it out of the General Fund. None of the other Councilor's seemed to take issue with this, although we all remember several hours of discussion over using $70,000 to fund the transit system.
I was told by City Attorney Pete Schannauer that there was no requirement for a public hearing on this public land sale, and that for unspecified reasons the agreement was not made available to the public prior to the special Joint Session. ORS 221.725 states that "...when a city council considers it necessary or convenient to sell real property or any interest therein, the city council shall publish a notice of the proposed sale in a newspaper of general circulation in the city, and shall hold a public hearing concerning the sale prior to the sale." Pete and Economic Development Assistant Director Jerry Mitchell assured me that I could receive a copy of agreement the next day, today. I will update this post with a link to the agreement if and when I receive it.
Suterra seems to be an excellent tenant for Juniper Ridge. According to Suterra President Steve Hartmeier the average salary is $90,000. Five to ten new jobs will be created per year, in addition to the 50 or so employees that will move from the current Suterra facility in the Columbia/Simpson area, which has almost 200,000 square feet of space empty and available already. Suterra creates pheromone-based insect control products. Suterra claims a high level of safety, although there have been reports of extensive safety issues with aerial applications in California.
This reporter has no issue with the tenant but does take issue with the process. Secrecy and extensive Executive Sessions have no place in the public process, and in fact are tightly regulated to certain issues that the City of Bend has far exceeded. This is an issue that will be further examined in the near future, as I firmly believe that the next City Council needs to become much more open, especially as the Highway 97 issue is cleared up and further lands are sold in Juniper Ridge. Also the continued significant payments to Juniper Ridge Partners for completely undocumented "services" is very troubling.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
To my surprise, the OTC has already, back in March, decided that they did not want any direct connection to Hwy 97 from Cooley Road. Their guidance document from March, 2008 states:
IV. Cooley Road - Preference is to include an overpass at Cooley Road and US 97, with no direct access to US 97.
This came as a complete and utter surprise to me. After all, we went through a several months-long process last year going over various scenarios for improving traffic flow at the Cooley/97 intersection. An idea that has been shelved, it seems.
In reality, the city's plans for Juniper Ridge are seen as a detriment to traffic flow on 97, and the OTC and ODOT have continued to press for surface solutions for Juniper Ridge and other local traffic in the area. Local roads for local traffic.
Simply put, the OTC and ODOT do not want Bend's proclivity for allowing development to exceed traffic flow capabilities, such as with the ProTerra development on the Mt. Bachelor bus parking lot, to cause their main north-south conduit east of the Cascades to fail.
I contacted the OTC to clarify this stance, and received this email from "ODOT Bob":
Bruce - I was asked to respond to your request. I've attached the slide from the presentation last week that references guidance that we received from the Transportation Commission during a presentation in February 2007. We have developed the alternatives for the US 97: North Corridor project consistent with this guidance, and we did not hear anything from the discussion last week that would cause us to change direction.
In fact, the traffic analysis accomplished as part of the project bears out the merits of the guidance at least as it pertains to the connection at Cooley Road. Any direct connection from US 97 at Cooley Road that would serve future development in Juniper Ridge causes the Parkway through Bend to fail. The traffic model shows that trips from throughout the community would use the Parkway as opposed to alternative local routes if their destination is Juniper Ridge. This additional local traffic volume would exceed the capacity.
ODOT Region 4
The emphasis is mine.
To my simple mind, it seems that the city is pushing ahead with plans that are at loggerheads with those who actually control the state's highways. And that is a no-win situation.
The Chair of the OTC stated that she supported funding of local arterials to take the pressure off of state highways. The idea being that state highways need free and clear flow, and local traffic is local traffic. Perhaps our city staff and council should explore this idea. Explore how to build a local traffic system that intersects with the state system on their terms. One that supports the local businesses and provides alternatives to the parkway.
One that might actually win support and funding from the state.
It might be an even better idea to try to really work with those who control highways 97 and 20, rather than continuing to push a homegrown solution against ever more fierce resistance.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I've put together a table that shows how planned land uses at Juniper Ridge tilted heavily towards residential, and have pretty much stayed that way even though Allan Bruckner was quoted in the Bulletin as being happier that more land was to be used for employment purposes. The numbers denote acres:
Note that the R&D/Light Industrial land use of 350-400 acres in the C-R plan that was approved includes 100 acres for 10+ acre parcels. That's it. Les Schwab already has 12, with an option for 8 more. Suterra has formally requested 10 acres. Pepsi has informally requested 10 acres. At this rate large parcels will be gone in a year or two, unless the City ignores the master plan and continues to sell large plots.
This is exactly what the City seems to be doing in the case of the Suterra request. My next post will cover that-a 10 acre parcel adjacent to Les Schwab, either north or west. This overlays planned parcels of 2-4 acres. And I have questions about how the City is moving forward with this sale despite JRP's exclusive three-year option on the 50 acres surrounding the Les Schwab property. Are we setting ourselves up for another lawsuit?
To say nothing about the emergence of a possible new sales deal with JRP, which may or may not be discussed at tomorrow's City Council work session. While, at least publically--I suspect it will be discussed in Executive Session.
Just as a $3000 per trip Bend-taxpayer-funded "incentive" to help defray the $9000 per trip cost of temporarily fixing Cooley Rd was discussed in the last Executive Session, and is revealed in the letter to Suterra from Econ Dev Director John Russell. That is if ODOT can be bent over and twisted into agreeing with the City's plan to increase congestion at Cooley/97 just like they plan to do around Simpson and Columbia for Proterra's development of the Mt. Bachelor Bus Parking area, according to the BULL:
Bend roads compromise may pave way for similar agreements
A compromise agreement between the city of Bend and a developer over road improvements in southwest Bend could set an example for other areas of the city...
Proterra’s plans for a mixed-use project with condominiums, offices and retail space were shot down by a city hearings officer earlier this year because of the amount of traffic the project would add to nearby roads...
City officials agreed that at that latter two intersections, they would tolerate slightly more congestion in the near term as a result of the development’s traffic...
The compromise with Proterra — in which the city will not require full traffic improvements for new development, tolerating slightly more congestion instead — sets a new precedent...
By agreeing to the compromise, the city also believes it can pressure the Oregon Department of Transportation to do the same thing at Cooley Road and U.S. Highway 97.
ODOT has said no new construction can happen near that intersection - including at the city’s 1,500-acre Juniper Ridge development - unless the city comes up with $40 million to upgrade the intersection.
Instead, the city is trying to reach an agreement with ODOT that would allow slightly more congestion at the intersection, which is most clogged during the morning and evening rush hours.
Mayor Bruce Abernethy and Councilor Bill Friedman agreed at Monday’s meeting that the city’s move to allow more congestion on its streets would put it in a better position to convince ODOT to do the same thing.
So the Council is saying "we like screwing over our own citizens, would you please do so, too!"
Just what we Bend citizen's want--even more congestion in the name of developer subsidies. Right. I bet you agree with that, kind reader. Just a little more "temporary" congestion in front of Lowe's on 97 during rush hour.
To be continued...
Sources for plans:
Juniper Ridge Partners (JRP) 5/2/07
Cooper-Robertson, approved by City Council 7/16/08
Friday, August 1, 2008
Yep, it's just talk. The final Juniper Ridge Master Plan, approved by the City Council on July 16, has only 100 acres set aside for large plots. That's awfully little, considering Les Schwab already has 20, Pepsi wants 10, and two more companies are stated to want 10 each.
I brought this up in public comments before the vote and Mayor Abernethy chastised me, stating the Council is very aware of the need for jobs, and that private landowners just outside Juniper Ridge will provide the necessary land.
He must know something I don't.
The old OTAK master plan that the Council deemed not good enough set aside 500 acres for large plots. Considering the paucity of such land in Bend, that makes a hell of a lot more sense. Especially considering up to 750 acres are being set aside for residential uses.
So someone tell me--where are the employers that will provide well-enough paying jobs to buy houses on that 750 acres be able to set up shop?
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Buying a Bulletin Ad Is Tough for Union
Bend’s Only Daily Newspaper must be so flush with advertising dollars that it can afford to be really picky about what ads it accepts – at least if they come from the union representing Bend Area Transit bus drivers.
Back in mid-April, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 tried to place an ad in The Bulletin urging the city not to raise BAT fares or cut service to cope with its budget crunch. The ad also claimed there is a “gross disparity in wages and benefits between BAT workers and every other city worker.”
The union originally wanted the ad to run on Tuesday, April 15, to publicize a press conference and rally to be held at Bend City Hall the next day. But when Catharine Alexander of the union submitted the ad to Bulletin account executive Lisa Legg, she was told the contents had to be vetted by the paper’s higher-ups before it could be printed.
“I sent your ad for approval to our management, who would like you to provide a back up for the claims in the ad,” Legg wrote to Alexander April 10 in an e-mail provided to The EYE.
Alexander responded by sending some supporting documents. Shortly afterward Legg e-mailed: “For each claim in the ad, we will need to know what page of the information you sent over pertains to that particular claim. We do not know how to look through each page and decide what goes with what.”
The next morning, Legg asked if the ad could run on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. “Can we still get Tuesday?” Alexander responded. “I can possibly get it in late, pending approval from management,” Legg replied.
But later that day, Legg e-mailed: “I just spoke to Sean Tate, our advertising manager, and Jay Brandt, our advertising director. They would both need to review every page of the documents that you sent, which wouldn’t be possible in time to run the ad. We would be happy to run an ad inviting people to come to the Press Conference and Rally.”
Alexander next asked Legg if Tate and Brandt could review the ad in time to get it into the Wednesday paper. Legg told her they wouldn’t be able to review it until Monday, when they both would be “on the road, which means we’d miss the deadline for Wednesday as well.”
Alexander then wrote that “we’re thinking the contents of the ad are timeless,” so it could run after Wednesday. She asked again when the ad could run.
Legg responded that “once our directors have gone over and approved the content of the ad, then we can get it put in the paper. If they approve it Monday while they are on the road we could get it in for Thursday.”
But as of April 21, Legg was telling Alexander that her “manager” – Tate, presumably – still wanted more corroboration: “He said that we will require verification of your information and not a list of phone numbers and people to call.”
The Bulletin still hasn’t published the union’s ad. But on April 28 it did publish an ad from Paratransit Services, the Bremerton, WA-based private company that operates BAT, attacking “the Portland union” for allegedly being uncooperative in negotiations.
And on April 20, it published an editorial calling the BAT drivers’ demand for a pay raise “astonishing.”
By April 21, Alexander apparently was getting exasperated. “The Union has placed similar ads in the Eugene Register Guard, the Corvallis newspaper, the Grants Pass newspaper and the Salem newspaper without having to prove anything,” she e-mailed Legg. “This has been true even when the editorial page has been against the Union’s position. If the publisher of the Bulletin doesn’t want to take our ad for political purposes the publisher certainly has that right. But the publisher should say so.”
Although I don't agree with the demand for an immediate raise, I do agree we need a transit system.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
This was so troubling to the City Council that they decided to move $100,000 from the Mirror Pond restoration fund to the Fire Department to ensure that all six stations remain open at all times, at least for the forthcoming fiscal year. Even then, Fire Chief Larry Langston stated that "two out of three days, we are out of EMS units for ambulance runs at some point during the day".
Police staffing is also going to be cut, both through not filling current openings and by not filling two openings created by expected retirements this summer. This should not affect call responses or violent crime investigations, but will affect the clearance rate for property and other low-level crimes. It is also expected to affect the budget due to reductions in traffic and other fines.
The complete elimination of Code Enforcement was proposed. Street maintenance is to be cut from $1.7 million to $700,000. The snowplow budget will be reduced to $150,000, in the hope that next winter will not require the $550,000 worth of plowing that this winter did. Transit cuts were proposed to eliminate Sunday Dial-A-Ride service and some mid-day fixed routes, along with bus stop improvements like benches, garbage cans, and shelters. The UGB process will be delayed, and there is concern that if the City is sued over the UGB there may not be enough money for legal defense services. Accessibility projects will see staff cut from six to three. The Affordable Housing budget will go from a proposed $2.1 million to $1.1 million. Engineering will be cut 40%, delaying transportation and utility improvement projects.
The Planning Department is being hit especially hard, as it is fee-based with supporting revenues from permits. Unfortunately, the residential permit level has dropped into the basement, and it turns out that the residential permits had been supporting the commercial permits all along. Department Director Mel Oberst stated commercial permit fees have never been high enough to cover required planning and inspection services, as commercial buildings are much more complex. The General Fund has been tapped to help pay for these services.
Reserves are being decimated, with most departments to only carry 1.5 to 2 months of reserves, while Transit will only maintain two weeks of reserves.
The "winners" seem to be the Community Development and Economic Development Departments, along with the Juniper Ridge and Airport Improvement projects. Both these departments are seeing year-over-year increases in monies from the General Fund, while the General Fund will be tapped to cover $250,000 in debt service for the Airport Improvements, and another $180,000 in debt service for the Juniper Ridge improvements required for the Les Schwab project. Both of these debts do not currently have a stable funding source for repayment.
City staff will return soon with specific immediate cuts, and also plans to revisit the subject in September, with further cuts possible depending on the economic situation going forward.
The residents of Bend will see a definite drop in services, from filling potholes to enforcing the sign ordinances, as the City battens down the hatches in the face of the oncoming recession.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Ms. Andrews characterized the City's position as "crossing their fingers" in hope of everything working out. If not, it's dead in the water for now, and the City is paying debt service on the $6 million we will end up in the hole until things turn around. Ron Garzini and, to a lesser extent, John Russell are the rainmakers. Ms. Andrews even admitted that even if the trips are OKed, she has no idea where the money to fund the $40 million Cooley/97 interchange will come from. That's on the Garz/Russell plate.
In a realistic aside, Ms. Andrews stated that even if they can sell 50 acres for only $5 a square foot, half of the $10 that Russell is promoting, but far more realistic for undeveloped land considering Les Schwab paid $7 for shovel ready with no SDC's, that she is off the hook because that $10 million will pay for costs incurred.
There was very little discussion of Juniper Ridge at the actual meeting. Much more time was spent on saving a $100K here or there, than on the big parts of the budget. My guess is that if the voters don't decide to fund the transit system this fall, it's gone. Capell and Telfer already question it's priority, especially considering the deep cuts to public safety.
But strangely, no one questions the developers subsidies through unrealistically low SDC's and permit fees, which has led us to this point. Growth has simply not paid for itself. Councilor Clinton is the only one who even brought this up.
Low SDC's and permit fees-->Planning/Engineering/Road/Utility deficits-->General Fund hits-->Public Safety cutbacks
As an example, consider the city of Troutdale. Per their SDC worksheet, a one-ERU residential hookup costs $4426, while according to the Bend worksheet, a one ERU hookup to the sewer is only $2038. Is Bend's cost really less than half of Troutdale's? Or are Bend taxpayers picking up the difference for the developer?
Friday, April 4, 2008
This was in error, as it is completely legal to vote this way. Oregon state law does not consider a cousin to be a relative in this regard. To quote the Oregon Revised Statutes on the definition of a "relative":
ORS 244.020 (14)(d) Siblings, spouses of siblings or parents of the public official or of the public official's spouse
So cousin's are fine, while in-law's are not.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
UPDATE: There was an actual exchange of property, with the Bulletin giving up property north of Olney. I am trying to figure out the exact details. The recordings are available at http://recordings.co.deschutes.or.us/ when you search with WESTERN COMMUNICATIONS INC in the Last Name field. Look for records around Oct. 18, 1999.
Deschutes County DIAL records show that the big headquarters building sitting above Mt. Washington and Century, this building, sits on land acquired for nothing:
The key pages of the DIAL document, pages 2 and 3, are these:
Note that sale price: $0
And you wonder why the Bulletin is so pro-Brooks Resources development?
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
$2.5+ million dollars from Bend taxpayers without even a cursory debate. Whatever debate was held was in secret, in Executive Session. Not to be heard be the people actually paying this bill.
This is not only disgusting, but also may be illegal. The State Ethics Commission will weigh in on this.
How can you call yourself a responsible representative of the citizen's of Bend and sign off on this without any debate.
Absolutely no public debate.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The mechanics of the agreement are that the city will deliver an "Entitlability Notice" to JRP, which will then have a total of 105 days to exercise their option and close the transaction, and will then have an additional two years to begin development. JRP will be responsible for all infrastructure improvements, and must prove their financial capability for such work to purhcase the property. It is an all or nothing purchase--the 50 acres will not be broken down for partial purchase by JRP.
There don't seem to be any usage restrictions, as the zoning has not been changed for this property as it has on the Les Schwab parcel. Their is no requirement for using the land for employment purposes, and in fact it states:
City acknowledges that through this Agreement, JRP is purchasing excess City property and is developing the same for JRP's own purposes and pursuant to JRP's own development plans. This is not a contract by which JRP is constructing an improvement for, or to the specifications, the City or any other municipality or governmental entity.How is the city planning to develop anything at JR without JRP? How is the city planning to make our $50+ million dollar investment, counting the Cooley/97 interchange, back? Are we going to get badly need jobs or more unneeded housing?
Another interesting thing is that both Juniper Ridge Partners LLC and Heather Kuratek are listed as contractors in the Termination Agreement and Release. There is absolutely no indication of actual amounts paid to any contractors by JRP, and there doesn't seem to be any accounting or audit requirement at all. Just the desire to pay them off and get out from under any potential lawsuit.
Another thing that isn't clear is when does the time clock start ticking with entities like Cooper Robertson on the city's dime? Does this agreement provide the taxpayers with Bend a master plan at a known cost or are we going to continue to pay Cooper Robertson and others going forward? Is the city going to be billed from now on rather than JRP? These questions are not answered in the agreements.
My biggest concern is that map shown in the Option and Purchase and Sale Agreement:
This is the first 50 acres to be developed, what the city is hoping to be able to develop with the additional $40 million investment in the Cooley/97 interchange and subsequent sign-off by ODOT. According to the Issue Summary, the city is hoping to have a funding source for the new interchange in the not too distant future:
We are beginning to communicate with investors who might assist us in funding the 97/Cooley mid-term intersection improvement project. We hope to find a funding solution by Fall 2008.Of course, this is six months behind what we were told just a month or two ago, but in this economic climate it probably isn't that big of deal.
What's going to be the by far more important part of any such agreements is the precise number of trips allocated to Juniper Ridge. Garzini has to negotiate the full 3000 for divying up between potential funders and JR, without any going to existing and future housing infrastructure in the area, or developing even 50 acres is dead in the water. I've heard several rumors now that the main source of this funding is going to be Walmart, in conjunction with the development of their land on the NW corner of the intersection.
Even with this investment at Cooley/97, the city will not be able to develop any more than 50 acres without other vehicular access, which is another big question mark. Where and at what cost? Perhaps the council and staff will inform us of their plans regarding this issue soon.
This will be an fascinating week. Signing up for a $2.5+ million payoff at the same time you are hearing about cuts in vital city services has to be gut wrenching for any members of the council that truly have the interests of all of Bend's citizens in mind.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Interesting week in The Bulletin's business section.
First, The Source comes out with this blurb on Thursday ...Quote:
TV isn't the only one getting into the act. A little bird told us that a reporter across town, well known for his real estate coverage, walked out when editors insisted that he spin his latest story to emphasize the positive side of the housing slump.
Oh, well, what's one more fairy tale in makebelieveland?
That caused Bulletin Executive Editor John Costa to fan his line editors through the newsroom to assure everyone that said real estate reporter had really been fired for lying about being sick.
Which didn't play well with a lot of the staff, because this email had already made the rounds for a couple of days ...Quote:
Charlene: (Apparently meaning Sharlene Crabtree, the Bulletin's Human Resources Director) Here's my response to the March 4 Separation Notice:
I did not "lie about being sick." I took two days off after an article I wrote for the Feb. 26 paper was edited by my supervisor, Business Editor John Stearns, in such a way as to remove any facts or opinions that tended to disagree with a public speaker's rosy predictions for the local real estate industry. As I told him, my intent was to carefully consider why that particularly editing job, which I viewed as dishonest, upset me, and to calm down enough to rationally discuss the issue with him.
When I returned, I was not "questioned about the days off" -- I initiated a meeting with Mr. Stearns and told him, without prompting, that I had not been physically ill but needed two "mental health days," in my phrasing, to determine how I should best discuss my future with the paper with him in a calm, rational way, rather than forcing the issue when I was angry and confused.
I told him during that meeting on Feb. 28 that I felt that the editing job on my Feb. 26 story was part of a pattern of editing that included misleading headlines, sources being banned from my coverage, story ideas getting spiked, and odd pre-story cajolling, all of which seemed designed by the executive editor to generate more favorable coverage of the local real estate market than I have thought was best in the two years I have been assigned to cover it for the paper. I further told him that, although I believed that the articles I had written for the paper were as thorough and as accurate as I could make them, the utter hack job that was done on my Feb. 26 story had led me to conclude that the paper was not willing to cover the industry as honestly as it should, given that the housing market -- which is economically important to the paper -- is now in the midst of a steep downturn.
I asked to be shifted to another beat, including others that had been identified by the executive editor as important to the paper's overall coverage, such as the business of medicine, or the banking industry. I told him I felt that I would be allowed to cover those beats "straight," without what I perceived to be the editors' emotional desire to slant coverage of the real estate market.
He denied that the paper's editors intended to color the news and criticized me for taking the days off, rather than confronting him with my concerns immediately. I told him again that I felt that I needed the time to clarify my own thoughts before I attempted to have a discussion with him, but if he felt the days weren't covered by our sick leave or vacation policy, I would be happy to take them as unpaid time off.
Stearns told me on March 3 that he had discussed my request to change beats with the executive editor. I don't know what was discussed in that meeting, but I was fired the next day.
In conclusion, there was no violation of the ethics code. I was quite honest about my reasons for not coming to work for two days, and was, I suspect, fired for stating those reasons to my supervisor.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond.
According to a quick look at the edit trail in The Bulletin's computer system, apparently what set him off -- finally -- was an edit job on a story on Dana Bratton's pie-in-the-sky real estate "forecast" speech last Monday that scrubbed paraphrases from Bill Valentine and Brooks Resources honchos Kirk Schueler and Mike Hollern, all saying that they think the downturn is going to last a whole lot longer than the April 25 turnaround date that Bratton ladled out to the adoring real estate crowd at The Riverhouse.
That pesky stuff got axed on orders from Costa, who told his business editor to "stick to what was said at the meeting."
Out, too, went a section that pointed out that the ridiculous predictions that Bratton made last year of a quick RE turnaround also -- uh -- kinda failed to pan out.
Which left the good readers of Bend with the vision of Dana Bratton, grand real estate prognosticator, predicting that everything will be hunky-dory by May, contradicted only slightly by those notorious pessimists at the National Association of Realtors, who actually suggested that sales might not turn around until late this year.
Could it be an accident that all of this is happening a week after the Realtors and Builders announced their "Best Time in 20 Years to Buy a House" campaign? Complete with plans for a good, old-fashioned media blitz?
Journalism at its finest, and right here in River City.
A search on the Bulletin site shows Fisher has only couple of bylines since the Bratton story, while before he wrote something nearly every day. One of his last was "Sellers Offer Cold, Hard Cash To Get Homes Off The Market". Andrew Moore wrote the latest real estate story on Awbrey Butte's new homeowners association. So perhaps the pushback has really taken another step forward.
On a related note, I am now officially a stringer for the Bend Weekly, with a Press Pass on the way. My first article was posted here. Now I should be able to get into the Executive Sessions. I plan to offer a much more skeptical viewpoint then the other cheerleaders in town, and certailnly better than the crap in the Bulletin today titled "Juniper Ridge Q&A", which I would link to if it wasn't behind their paywall.
Plus there is that pesky little detail of the City Council making a $2.56M decision in Executive Session to pay off Juniper Ridge Partners. My biggest goal is to force greater transparency around this issue, and a major step forward in that process will occur this week. Stay tuned...
Monday, March 3, 2008
My 4 AM math was wrong on the 50 acre sale, as one acre = 43,560 sq. ft. Then 50 acres equals 2,178,000 sq. ft., so:
50 acres at $10=$21,780,000
50 acres at $7=$15,246,000
To put these numbers in perspective, we are spending $13+ million getting roads and utilities to the Les Schwab parcel of only 20 acres, and that doesn't count the $37-40 million to be spent on the Hwy 97/Cooley upgrade where we hope to gain 3000 daily trips.
Also we need to note that while 50 acres will be the nominal amount added to the industrial UGB, taking out roads, parks, etc. will reduce that by 10% or more.
Sorry for the error, though. It's embarrassing.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008
The good: Les Schwab came through with a building that looks nice and, most important, creates jobs. Which is what JR is supposed to be all about. Open, natural light, pretty much as green as a building can be. Kudos to the architect and LS for making it happen. It's not a wart, which is a huge relief to everyone. The LS PR person promised to send me the latest rendering from their Powerpoint show tomorrow, which I'll post here. It is really very nice.
Now to the "curious": Could someone from the City please tell me just how we are going to finance this thing without going bankrupt? The sequencing just does not make sense to me. Let me try to sort this out better, as this was what was bothering me and it came together and woke me up just now.
City Finance Director Sonia Andrews gave an update on the JR financing, stating flat out that we don't have the money or the financing capability to even cover everything we are doing now for LS, and that some "hard choices" are going to have to be made if we don't make any land sales in the near future. And this doesn't include the $37-40 million for the Cooley Rd/Hwy 97 changes that need to be made. we need about $14M, and about half of the is going to have to come from a short term bank loan, which although it is going to be at a good rate (3%) it is going to have to be repaid, and the only source for repayment of it all is going to be next 50 acres in land sales at JR that will be made possible by the Cooley/97 upgrades if all goes as planned.
Ron Garzini passed around a letter he was proposing to send to local businesses to see if they were interested in purchasing trips to help fund the Cooley/97 changes, although there still seemed to be confusion over whether we had 3000 trips available or only 1500, according to ODOT. Ron was still negotiating with ODOT on this, as best I could decipher. It's a huge difference, one that could be a deal breaker in and of itself, so getting a clear answer on this is imperative.
But, even more incredulously, John Russell, Director of the Department of Economic Development, blithely stated that we would get enough from that 50 acres, which he seems to think will be an easy sale at $10 a square foot, to cover the shortfall for the improvements so far, i.e. to repay the $7+ million dollar line of credit from the bank, through a combination of cash from the sales and, I presume, bonds that the City will be able to sell once we have more taxes coming from that land. Mr. Russell stated that he expected to get $10 sq. ft. for the land.
And this is where my confusion began:
1) Les Schwab has set the comparable at $7 sq ft shovel ready, without SDCs, so unless Mr. Russell knows something I don't $10 a sq. ft. doesn't seem very realistic.
NOTE:UPDATED PER ABOVE
2) Even at $10, the proceeds are $21,780,000, while at $7 they are $15,246,000, leaving the issue of SDC's out of it for now. As an example of SDC amounts, LS was relieved of paying around $400K-$500K of them for their initial 120,000 sq. ft. building on 6 acres of their land.
3) This is where my head exploded--to have a chance in hell of getting $10, it is going to have to be shovel ready, like the LS land, with sewers, roads, etc. Which is going to cost millions of dollars. Which is going to have to be financed somehow, but the money from this next 50 acre sale is going to be used to pay off the bills for LS's 20 acres (not including the Cooley/97 bill) meaning it won't be available to pay for the infrastructure needed to make the 50 acres shovel ready in order to sell it.
Do you see what I'm getting at? Exactly. It just doesn't add up, let alone work out in the sequencing of financing and infrastructure improvements provided as the "plan" for getting out of this hole.
After the presentation I brought up the LS comparable and the infrastructure issue with Mr. Russell, and was simply and rudely dismissed as some kind of idiot. I followed him around and brought up the infrastructure issue again, and was simply told "No" when asking about if the City had plans to pay for it, and was again rudely dismissed and further ignored.
I must say that Mr. Russell is pretty damned rude to at least one of the citizens that are paying his salary.
So, I'll ask you again, Mr.John Russell, oh-so-much-smarter than myself Director of Economic Development, please tell us stupid tax-paying citizen's of Bend a couple of things, seeing as how you weren't willing to discuss them any further with me at the City Council meeting:
1) How is the City going to pay for the 50 acres of infrastructure needed to sell said 50 acres for the shovel ready price of $10 per sq. ft.
2) What company is going to pay $10 a sq. ft. plus SDCs when we sold Les Schwab property for $7 sq.ft. with no SDCs, and this is now the most direct comparable.
Because there are some real curious and not-feeling-real-prosperous-right-now Bend citizens that want to know.
You know the kind: they're the ones that pay your salary.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The key points are:
1) The City pays JR Partners $2.56 million.
2) JR Partners completes the Master Plan over the next three months, working with the City.
3) JR Partners hands over ownership of the Master Plan to the City.
4) The MOU is no longer in force and there is no longer a Master Developer relationship, specifically including Section 11.5 and it's prohibition of the City working with other parties for six months after the new UGB, including some JR land, is finalized and in force.
In interviews, Mayor Abernethy stated this would finally allow the City to move forward, both with JR and with the Cooley/97 interchange. One huge sticking point to the interchange issue is that ODOT may only allow an additional 1500 trips, not the 3000 expected, stating that it believes that 1500 would be needed for additional neighborhood development in any case. This would increase the cost of a trip to over $25,000, if indeed it provided enough leeway for much further development at all. The City wants to sell these trips to adjacent businesses to help pay for the interchange, and even 3000 doesn't provide a lot of leeway for both sales and JR development.
The Mayor also stated that informal discussion among the staff may lead to eomployment development being scaled up by 100 acres or so overall, and maybe more if we yell and scream loud enough at the public input meetings that will be held. The Mayor provided the following quote via e-mail:
"I believe that we will change the mix between light industrial and residential and informal discussion among staff is to recommend 100 acres additional employment land. The final amount will obviously be decided after we have had a chance to listen to the public. I will say that there is no interest on the part of the Council to return to any plan that has all 1,500 acres designated as industrial."
The Council still strongly believes in the neighborhood center concept (including a water feature) with employment to the west. This would put industry on the Hwy 97 side, both within and outside of JR, with a neighborhood center or two on the canal side, with room for a university as well. I told him that the huge jump in residential acreage in the Master Plan, which we obviously don't need with all the empty housing in the City since we have been so overbuilt in the recent past, was what people were upset about, that they wanted family-wage jobs, not housing, and we were going to yell and scream about it some more, which he seemed resigned to. The Council's concept is the overriding thing it seems.
I plan to keep pushing towards a further move towards the OTAK 2005 concept plan, as seen on page 50 of the May 2, 2007 update. This had only 8-10% housing, 150 acres max. Here is that page, showing the OTAK "2005 Concept", the original industrial concept, and the current Kuratek Concept:
When you review this plan, which set off such a row almost 10 months ago now, it is amazing how many pages are devoted to the different types of housing for land that was to be used for a public purpose, which everyone at the time thought referred to jobs. Someone needs to do a housing count, just how many are empty, how many have been on the market and not sold and are now rented, how many subdivisions have how many empty lots. I think the count within a mile of me, around Silverlake and Reed Market, is probaly north of a 100. And heading out Reed Market and along 15th or 27th you can see many, many more, in subdivisions planned, started, or almost finished. Of course, adding even more housing to this overabundance will tend to bring the median price back to 4X average household income, under $200,000, even quicker.
One just wishes the overall concept paid more attention too all that empty, soon to be foreclosed Siberian Tract Housing on the east side, which could house employees while providing worker access to JR without using 97. I always thought that JR was supposed to be a Silicon Valley type addition to the City as a whole rather than its own cute self-contained Light Industrial/R&D Celebration type of town. But the Mayor guaranteed that the public will get several chances to input it feelings, although there most likely would not be a Public Advisory Board as the County suggested in their January working meeting together. The County repeatedly emphasized the importance of listening to and acting in response to public input in this meeting.
Mayor Abernethy also said that the City will not get the invoices for the work but will or had received other documentation of costs, which I will continue to pursue although it is a moot point with the cancellation of the MOU, but at least we will get an idea of what it actually cost JR Partners. If one wants to place blame for this fiasco of an agreement, it would be good to start with the signatories: Andy Anderson for the City and John Russell, head of the Department of Economic Development, for Bend Urban Renewal Agency.
The Mayor stated that he believes that there were four good things to come out of the decision to settle(thus breaking my rule of the strenght of three's) and was starting to go through them with me when he was called back into the Council meeting. He updated and clarified some statements via e-mail, including enumerating these points as such:
"Positive aspects of settlement vs. under the current MOU and stalemate in negotiations:
1. It enables us to develop and have ownership of a master plan for Juniper Ridge within the next 90 days. This timeline was undetermined and out of our control and we would not have ownership of the master plan if we simply terminated negotiations.
2. Having a master plan in place enables us to move forward on planning for the first 300 acres of Juniper Ridge. As per the MOU, we could not negotiate with anyone other than JRP until 6 months after the UGB expansion. This had the effect of tying our hands even on the 500 acres that was already inside the UGB!
3. Having a master plan in place will enable us to determine the trips generated by various forms of development in Juniper Ridge. This will be critical in helping us determine cost allocations to help pay for the Hwy 97/Cooley Road improvements.
4. It enables us to move forward without fear of a lawsuit by JRP. This was a risk that the City faced."
Additionally, I spoke with Sonia, asking her specifically about property tax receipts. She said that so far it look like the deliquency rate is about the same as the last few years, only 6%, and that we would know for sure in 10-14 days when the Budget Detail for January is finished. She is going to send me a copy and then we will have a meeting talking about expected shortfalls and cutbacks. We may yet survice this slowdown, although it will take severe belt-tightening. The $2.56 million going out is not going to help, because even though it is in the "assumed" costs (as the Mayor pointed out repeatedly to the media) it was not in the committed costs until last night. It was more like a contingency fund in that it was budget but wouldn't be spent unless actually needed.
Since it looks like City revenues are going to be at least $20-25 million under budget, we are going to need every dollar we can get to maintain service levels while continuing construction at JR and things like the Reed Market corridor. If month over month revenue continues to fall, we could easily be $30+ million under budget, which would be ugly. I am awaiting the budget detail for January with great interest, both for comparision with the sharp downtrend in December as well as for comparision over Jan, 2007. It will give us a better picture of what to expect going forward.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
“Information is the currency of democracy.” -- Thomas Jefferson
Our City Council could make giant strides in gaining citizen trust and support by following Oregon Open Government laws and properly noticing the secretive Executive Sessions it holds during virtually every City Council Meeting. It would achieve far more from this simple step than from any PR efforts it could make.
Instead, our Councilors hide behind a single line, seen in virtually all the City Council Meeting Agenda’s: “Executive Session pursuant to ORS 192.660 (2) (a through h)”. The minutes of a meeting states something like “Mayor Abernethy called a recess to Executive Session at 6:14 P.M. pursuant to ORS 192.660 (2) (a through h)”. Even during recent joint meeting with the Bend Metro Parks and Recreation Board there was evidently a need for secrecy, so the minutes reflect that “Mayor Abernethy called an Executive Session of both agencies pursuant to ORS 192.660 (2) (a through h) at 7:06 P.M.” A citizen may rightfully wonder what can and must be discussed in secret about our city’s parks. And
Oregon‘s Public Meetings Law, first enacted in 1973, specifically allows Executive Sessions, where the public may be excluded except for media representatives, for certain items. These are the reasons as stated in ORS 192.660(2)(a through h):
(a) To consider the employment of a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent.
(b) To consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent who does not request an open hearing.
(c) To consider matters pertaining to the function of the medical staff of a public hospital licensed pursuant to ORS 441.015 to 441.063, 441.085, 441.087 and 441.990 (3) including, but not limited to, all clinical committees, executive, credentials, utilization review, peer review committees and all other matters relating to medical competency in the hospital.
(d) To conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to carry on labor negotiations.
(e) To conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to negotiate real property transactions.
(f) To consider information or records that are exempt by law from public inspection.
(g) To consider preliminary negotiations involving matters of trade or commerce in which the governing body is in competition with governing bodies in other states or nations.
(h) To consult with counsel concerning the legal rights and duties of a public body with regard to current litigation or litigation likely to be filed.
Oregon Open Meetings laws state that Executive Session notice requirements are the same as for all other meetings, which must include a list of principal subjects with enough specificity for citizens to recognize items of interest. In addition, Executive Session notices must include the specific statutory authority for each agenda item discussed in the executive session. This specific statutory authority must be also announced before going into an Executive Session.
Executive Sessions are allowed for only very limited purposes. Deschutes County Commission rarely holds Executive Sessions, while the Bend City Council holds them at virtually every meeting. Even on the subject of ORS 192.660(2)(e), the real estate exemption, the Oregon Attorney General long ago stated that:
‘A governing body may meet in executive session to "conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to negotiate real property transactions." The apparent policy underlying this provision is to permit public bodies to protect their negotiating position in real estate transactions by keeping certain information confidential. This provision does not permit a governing body to discuss long-term space needs or general lease site selection policies in executive session.’
The Bend City Council seems to have gone far beyond these limitations, particularly in its deliberations around Juniper Ridge.
An example of a good notice of an Executive Session is this, from the Newberg City Council Work Session Agenda for October 17, 2005:
“X. EXECUTIVE SESSION
1. Executive Session pursuant to ORS 192.660(2)(d) relating to a real
property transaction – McKillip Property located at
An example of a good record of an Executive Session in the Minutes of a meeting is this, from the Sherwood City Council Meeting of Dec. 11, 2001:
1. Executive Session #1 held pursuant to ORS 192.660 (1) (e) Real Property Transactions and ORS 192.660 (1) (h) Consult with Legal Counsel – Meinecke Road intersection - took place from 6:03 to 6:28 p.m.
2. Executive Session #2 held pursuant to ORS 192.660 (1) (i) Employee Evaluation. – the City Manager six-month review took place from 6:30 to 6:50 p.m.”
Complaints of Executive Session violations may be directed to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, for review, investigation and possible imposition of civil penalties. Members of a governing body may be liable for attorney and court costs both as individuals or as members of group if found in willful violation of the Public Meetings Law. Judy Stiegler of
I have fully documented the use of Executive Sessions back to the Special Meeting resulting in the Les Schwab property sale on December 12, 2006. This includes documentation of Executive Sessions held after regular City Council meetings that were never noticed. I also received a copy of a December 8, 2006 e-mail from the City noticing the December, 12, 2006 Special Meeting after filing an open records request. Yet my contacts with the media representatives that attended said session and a review of the Bend Bulletin from December 8 to December 12 fail to show any record of this email.
The Bend City Council simply does not follow the Oregon Open Meetings law in its constant use of Executive Sessions. I urge the Council to at least conform with and preferably even go beyond the letter of the law, in the manner of the City Councils of our fellow
None of us want to take the next step of filing a complaint with the Ethics Commission.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Ramifications and Consequences
By Allan Bruckner
August 15, 2007
Following publication of my article “The Bend Ultimatum: Juniper Ridge” in the Bend Business Review last June I have repeatedly been asked about the project. This presentation will relate some of the problems created by the flawed procedures, outlined in the article, used by the City of Bend.
It appears the council and staff completely overlooked the impact, and complications caused, by choosing to do a 1500 acre project. And it now appears that promoters of the project have vested so much of themselves in it that they cannot objectively consider any other points of view. All questions and criticisms are automatically rejected without discussion, kind of like the Bush White House. While presentations of site plans have been presented by consultants, the city has never openly debated the economics, policy directions or wisdom of the overall project.
THE BIG CHANGE - 500 v. 1500
The basis for almost all the questioning of the project was created by changing the project from a 500 acre industrial land development to a 1500 acre project with high end housing, and a town center or two, becoming the biggest component. The project was so changed after the RFQ of May 2005, at the October 19, 2005 developer selection date. Refusing to acknowledge this as a significant change, Councilor Jim Clinton defends the city by quoting one line in the RFQ that says, “the city desires to retain the same development team for all phases of Juniper Ridge.” Ignored is the first sentence on the first page, “solicit qualifications from development teams to develop approximately 504 acres of land,” and the first sentence on page 5 that says, “the property addressed in this RFQ includes approximately 504 acres recently brought into the Bend city limits and is referred to as Juniper Ridge Phase 1.” Also ignored is the fact that the two firms not selected addressed only the 504 acres, and the firm selected in his June 24, 2007 response to the RFQ said, “this RFQ is intended to be for phase 1.” The refusal to discuss this change and the reasons and justification for it does not lend confidence in the decision making process or the decision makers.
The firm selected was not a major regional firm, but just two individuals who formed an L.L.C., strictly to bid on the project. Their proposal was selected although awarding a 1500 acre project was never discussed in public. In fact, eight studies for the city of Bend, costing nearly a million dollars, were conducted in the year before the selection, all related to the 500 acre Phase 1, already brought into the UGB for industrial purposes. Regardless, signing an MOU for 1,500 acres has caused incredible consequences throughout the community.
THE INDUSTRIAL LANDS DILEMMA
One significant factor in electing the developer was his “providing a potential absorption rate for the entire 1500 acres in 15 years.” The other finalist “utilized predicted (land absorption) rate by ECONorthwest which was prepared for the city in 2004 as part of the Otak master planning effort.” The selected developer also proposed 100 acres, of Phase 1 added to the UGB for industrial uses, be sold for housing. The city accepted this even though it is in violation of both county and state requirements that Phase 1 be used for industrial purposes. This conflict has never been publicly addressed.
The selected developer’s original proposal showed 300 acres would be developed for industrial purposes in 15 years. This April in a huge but scarcely noticed change, the industrial needs component was changed from 20 acres per year to just 11 acres per year, and the time frame for total absorption was changed from 15 to 31 years. These two changes create a completely different project compared to the proposal selected in October 2005. The city is now giving control of its land to the two individuals for 31 years. Apparently the change has been accepted by the city with no justification and no questioning. This should be subject to extensive public discussion, as it has become a completely different project with inadequate industrial land.
The significance of the change in industrial land absorption is critical. In talking to eight persons extremely knowledgeable about industrial land (Deborah McMahon, Erich Schultz, James Lewis, Bruce Kemp, Dale VanValkenburg, Roger Lee, Louis Hoffman, Bill Smith), all agreed the minimum needed is 20 acres per year and it is likely that 40 acres are needed annually. If the mid point of 30 acres is assumed, then over 30 years the need approximates 900 acres. Adding 200 to be reserved for the university and 150 required for parks means there is not the large acreage the developer wants for housing.
The “bait and switch” for a huge housing development would not be possible, but for the newly changed unrealistic assumption on industrial land needs. The city, in its apparent blind enthusiasm for the project never questions this. Actually, after a developer presentation this spring, Mayor Bruce Abernathy did note, “It seems to me that by the time the university was constructed, employment sites would have filled up. It would seem to me we’d want the ability to attract businesses after the university arrived.” Excellent point. It has been completely ignored.
The state Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) has also weighed in on the industrial land needs. In a letter to the city February 6, 2006 it noted the “need to maintain the city’s base industrial land inventory, per the 2004 periodic review” (the basis of the 500 acre annexation). On the same topic in a February 20, 2007 conversation, DLCD stated the MOU with the developer “has a lot of conflicts with state planning law”. Then in a July 11, 2007 letter to the city noting since Juniper Ridge is the only place for industrial uses “it is important that the land is still available for industrial uses when it comes time for development”. Obviously these points should have been addressed before committing over 500 acres to housing, and selling part of Phase 1 industrial land for housing.
INCONSISTENT JOB NUMBERS
The city, in its desire to move rapidly, has also allowed the developer to play fast and loose with another significant number – new jobs. Based on several consultant studies it was projected that Juniper Ridge would create 3,400 jobs in 20 years (on 500 acres of phase 1) and 8800 eventually. The developer’s proposal claimed 24,000 jobs in just 15 years. This city did not request any support for this, accepting that the job number reflects “the developer’s aspiration for higher employment density than was assumed in the concept plan”. This assertion should have been challenged, as it was a significant factor in the selection.
Then in their April 2007 update the developer’s numbers were reduced to 18,000 jobs in 31 years. That’s 1/3 fewer jobs in twice the time frame, but still twice what the city’s consultant projected. This decrease came despite increasing the anticipated jobs in education from 535 to 3000, for which no reason was given! This dramatic change should question the credibility of the numbers, but was never challenged by the city, apparently too eager to keep their deal going. There is no responsibility assigned for creating any jobs.
Another significant problem created by the city’s lack of thorough study and haste to develop the entire 1500 acres, relates to transportation. The city and developer have always proceeded on the basis that Highway 97 would provide the access for Juniper Ridge although the state Highway Department never assured them of such. And studies have always shown that the Cooley Road interchange with 97 was near capacity and not capable of increased use from a large scale development.
Nevertheless the developer’s consultant drafted, with concurrence from the city, master plans showing large residential developments and one or two town centers utilizing a new interchange further north on Hwy. 97. Apparently enthusiasm got ahead of communication, finally forcing the state to officially notify the city on July 17, 2007 that “transportation analyses should assume, for the 20 year horizon, that there is not a middle interchange serving Juniper Ridge”. One wonders how may hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted on site planning because in the rush, proper transportation analysis was not undertaken first.
When the city finally realized that the project would not be served by Hwy. 97, they immediately said it would be served by Deschutes Market Road. To address this, the city is realigning its street planning priorities and likely its capital improvement program. Money was immediately diverted from the Brookswood study, a problem area for citizens now, to study future road needs for a potential development. The push for Juniper Ridge is unfortunately and unfairly drawing scarce resources from areas of the city needing immediate attention.
Another area where the claims of the proposal are questionable is that their “new urbanism” will reduce overall traffic. There is no supporting documentation regarding the effect of a community of 5 or 10 or ultimately 15,000 residents (depending on the time frame of 10 or 20 or 30 years) developed 3 to 5 miles from the center of a very attractive city of 75,000.
As a common sense observation, if a new 500 to 600 acres residential development takes place, (think Northwest Crossing), it is clear that most of the needs of the residents will not be met on site. Residents will regularly travel for medical appointments, for movies, for dinners, and for major shopping, as well as for jobs to established businesses. Clearly the further one is from these established services, the more travel that will occur.
The most recent claim of the developer (OTAK memo of April 11, 2007) shows more jobs being created than household residents. Obviously these jobs will be filled by other residents of Bend, and since Juniper Ridge is on the very extremity of town, these trips will likely be longer than average. Since not all the residents will be working in Juniper Ridge, longer than average trips to their jobs will also be required.
A study in 2003 in Jackson County, Oregon addressed a somewhat similar situation, in White City, near Medford. White City had a good employment base but the county felt a residential development was needed for the workers. As planned for Juniper Ridge, jobs in White City pay above average wages. The study concluded that many of these firms’ employees can afford to live throughout the region, and do. The conclusions, after three years was that “people relocating to White City … are driving more in general and their relocation to White City appears to increase commuting distances and times”.
In its letter to the city on July 17, 2007 the Oregon Department of Transportation summarized the situation by referencing the recent Bend Area Central Area Plan. ODOT stated, “It is important to recognize that focus on redevelopment of this area would provide the opportunity for relatively shorter trips to be accommodated by a variety of transportation nodes, while development of areas more distant from the core area and downtown will be more problematic to provide transportation infrastructure for.”
IMPACT ON THE UGB
The biggest problem brought on by the precipitous change in the approach to Juniper Ridge concerns the UGB expansion. In the MOU the city promised, “The city will seek an expansion of the UGB to include all the property.” If the city had stayed with the plans to develop just Phase 1, this would not be a problem since it is already in the UGB. But now the city must get the additional area into the city, because failure to so, would negate the ability of the developer to proceed as planned. Indeed the city authorized the developer to hire consultants to develop a master plan that assumed inclusion into the UGB, although at the time of selecting the developer, the land was not even in the area being studied for inclusion in the UGB, or in the urban area reserve.
This removes impartiality and credibility on the boundary expansion study. Unless the staff decides to go against the council’s wishes, they must promote this parcel over others, since the amount of land to be included is strictly limited. Clearly the staff is following the council’s wishes.
However, before including an area into the expanded UGB, the city must legally study alternative areas with specific factors weighted. Most important are the existing urban area reserve designation, present zoning, transportation and sewers.
In brief, the UGB expansion requirement says that the first areas to be considered are in the urban area reserve. Juniper Ridge is not.
Present zoning is a major factor. EFU-zoned property is a very low priority. Juniper Ridge is EFU.
Transportation is also a major factor. Juniper Ridge is clearly a transportation disaster as previously discussed. It is essentially landlocked without major city expenditures.
Sewers are the other important factor. City policy is generally to promote gravity lines and discourage pump stations. The 1000 acre Phase 2 requires pumps (Phase 1 does not). It can be argued that in order for the sewer expansion to not be a negative factor due to cost, the city made another inappropriate boundary decision. To cut the sewer cost to Juniper Ridge, it accepted an offer from Newland Properties to include its properties in the UGB, in exchange for $10 million in funds for the sewer expansion. Again Newland Properties are outside the UGB study area, outside the Urban Area Reserve and is zoned EFU. All are negative factors for inclusion. Other property owners were not given the opportunity to “buy” their way in, only the one that would benefit Juniper Ridge.
IMPACT ON OTHERS
The lack of coordination, and the decision to not involve others in these major
community decisions, has also offended other agencies. Including Juniper Ridge Phase 2 in the new UGB, of necessity, eliminated other areas that appeared logical to be included. For example, the Bend-LaPine School District based their long term school site search on information given them, by the city, regarding where the likely UGB expansion would occur. A city official sat on their site selection committee. A school bond issue was passed based on that information. One site has been purchased and two have been negotiated but not finalized. Selecting new sites and negotiating their purchase will be very costly for all Bend residents. One official said they were “stunned” when the new boundary proposal excluded all their selected sites.
Additionally most of the 1000 acres of Phase 2 are in the Redmond school district. The city’s announcement that it wants those residents’ children in the Bend schools was made without consulting either school district. It is presumptuous and an invasion of the prerogatives of the school districts. Changing district boundaries also involves complex tax considerations that have never been addressed. Clearly the whole issue should have been investigated and discussed before even considering a major residential development.
Bend Parks and Recreation District has major problems with the manner in which the Juniper Ridge plans have unfolded. The city plans exclude Juniper Ridge from the Parks District. In a June 2007 joint meeting of city councilors and the parks board, a city councilor stated, “This is a real quality development and the developer wants to control the quality of its parks development.” This means the District would not receive property taxes or SDC’s that fund pools, trails, ball fields, Pine Nursery, etc. Abiding by the developer’s wishes, the city made it clear that Juniper Ridge would not be annexed to the Park District.
Again in the rush to have a deal, the city may have overlooked a city ordinance: Bend Development Code 3.4.300 D. 2. states that “as a condition of approval the land owner of a proposed subdivision or partition of land lying within the Bend UGB, but outside the boundaries of the BMPRD, shall be required to sign an annexation agreement with the BMPRD”.
Central Oregon Irrigation District has a canal running the north-south length of Juniper Ridge, approximately 2¼ miles. Steve Johnson, manager of COID, wrote the city in November 2005 right after the 1500 acre decision, with a proposal to pipe the canal, enabling a generating plant at the north end. Although the city has promoted piping with other districts for water conservation, Johnson indicated he has never had an official reply from the city. In the meantime the developer’s consultant’s site plans have open water features, negating water conservation efforts and perhaps the generating facility. Apparently a city project is exempt from water conservation projects it is encouraging for others. And more planning money has been wasted.
URBAN RENEWAL DISTRICT
Along with the inclusion of the 500 acre Phase 1 into the urban growth boundary for industrial purposes, and the numerous consultant studies previously referred to, the city of Bend on August 29, 2005 adopted an urban renewal district. The district was to help develop that 500 acres for “primarily industrial and ancillary commercial support uses”. The report minimized the impact of the urban renewal district by stating, “All properties in the area are within the city’s commercial and industrial zoning districts … therefore the increase in population and especially school age population within the area is not expected to be significant and should not result in easurable increases in the demand for municipal and social services.”
Apparently without considering this, less than two months later the selected developers accepted proposal included selling 100 acres of this industrial reserve for residential use. In the MOU it was increased to 200 acres. The county approval for adding the 500 acres to the UGB expressly stated that the city “may zone that portion of the property for industrial uses”. The conflicts with the urban renewal district and the county should have been publicly addressed before proceeding. It makes one wonder if anyone realized there were such conflicts, or if they didn’t care about such.
LES SCHWAB TIRE CENTERS
Only one firm has signed up to locate in the 500 acre industrial park that was annexed 2½ years ago. That firm is Les Schwab. The city agreed to sell the land at approximately half the market rate and exempt Schwab from any restrictive covenants, master plan requirements, and future local improvement district costs that may be imposed on the development.
Two of the conditions agreed to by the city and county in 2003 regarding the Juniper Ridge project are that the property be master planned before any development occur and that no building permit be issued before a final subdivision plat has been approved. Under terms of this agreement the city cannot sell the property to Schwab or issue building permits at this time. This is another procedural misstep that makes one question their ability to manage a substantial project.
The above are just some of the problems created by the sudden decision to develop the entire 1500 acres. While most of the objections have come from the business community, the problems affect the public at large, have major financial impacts on the city, and have significant negative impacts on other agencies. No time was allowed to thoroughly investigate these and other complex factors. Nor has the city addressed the impacts if the project is not successful. The city should have resolved these issues before any agreement was signed. Major lawsuits will be filed against the city.
As the OTAK Sustainability Study for Juniper Ridge of June 23, 2005 states, “Experience shows us that if community leaders don’t intellectually and emotionally own a project, it cannot be successfully implemented and maintained.” I believe the community does not have “ownership” in this project.
The only way to resolve the situation is for the city to withdraw its request that Phase 2 be added to the UGB, terminate the MOU and proceed with plans for Phase 1.
NOTE: This did not have any copyright notice on it, so I took the liberty of copying and posting it here. Mr. Bruckner, if you object simply e-mail me and I will delete it. Or, if you do not object, and if you want to update it, I will be glad to post an updated version here as well.
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