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.