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Bend councilors OK controversial Les Schwab move

Addressing a controversial topic during a busy agenda, Bend city councilors voted 5-2 Wednesday night to let Les Schwab Tires move its Franklin Avenue store to a smaller lot along Third Street, with a majority viewing it as a net positive and opening up a downtown gateway to new, more pedestrian-friendly uses.

After fairly divided verbal and written testimony, Mayor Sally Russell and councilors Justin Livingston, Bill Moseley, Chris Piper and Bruce Abernethy favored the change, while colleagues Barb Campbell and Genna Goodman-Campbell were opposed and supported a planning commission recommendation to deny the company’s proposal. City staff will draft written findings for a council vote next month.

Goodman-Campbell said she didn’t believe the company had proven a change in the area, a requirement to make the case for removing the Third Street property from the Bend Central District, a city vision for mixed uses, including residential, walkable areas, along now car-focused Third Street.

But Livingston claimed there’s actually been a decline in development in the area since the BCD code was adopted three years ago. He said it would be “better for the district” to move the tire store from the key pedestrian-bike route along Franklin Avenue.

Moseley said the BCD code as drafted didn’t anticipate the kind of move Les Schwab wants to make, to a smaller lot, thus reducing the total acreage of auto-dependent uses in the area.

Piper also backed the store’s relocation, saying it will trigger positive development along Franklin and “trigger good economic vitality.”

“We have to be flexible,” Piper said.

Abernethy said it was “interesting to hear the conversation back and forth” on the issue, and that “with any code change, there are winners and some losers — that’s a given.” But he added, “I view the relocation as a net benefit for the Bend Central District.”

Campbell said the city should not be supporting “having a little island in the middle of the Bend Central District that is not part of the Bend Central District. … I think the planning commission got it right.”

She said she cares most about reducing “that division between east and west” Bend, and that they shouldn’t base the decision on Les Schwab’s long and strong community ties and being an excellent local business.

“If I were to use that sort of an argument, I’m going to apply it to Dandy’s Hamburgers,” she said. “That just because I like them, I let them do what they want to do.”

But Russell said, “I think there was a mistake in that developing the underlying codes for the overlying zone, it didn’t recognize the ability of taking an existent business in the business district, moving to another site with a reduction in use, giving us overall a net benefit.”

Abernethy said of moving the business from one spot to another, “To me, that’s not that big a deal — not Chicken Little ‘the sky is falling.'”

But Campbell said the tire store moving to a smaller parcel doesn’t mean fewer cars: “I don’t believe Les Schwab has any intention whatsoever to have fewer customers in their new location.”

Goodman-Campbell said the spot where Les Schwab wants to move could be redeveloped as commercial with residential above. But Moseley noted that lot has had several auto-dependent uses for many years — and even if they were to leave, it could have more in the future.

Affordable housing funding

City councilors have set a goal to increase housing units across the city, as well as make sure more affordable housing options are available.

Not only does the city have a goal to add 3,000 new housing units in the next two years, it also has a goal to add 100 affordable housing units each year.

Councilors approved two uses of a federal Community Development Block Grant to help the city move toward that goal.

Rachael Baker, the city’s affordable housing coordinator, said the grants will help fix a roof at the Home of the Brave in Bend that houses six veterans, as well as allow for a new five cottage home development to get rolling off of Northeast Eighth Street.

Baker said the city is working hard to help diminish the housing issues that have popped up in Bend.

“The state and the city of Bend are behind in our housing supply, which is driving up those housing burdens for households,” Baker said. “They are paying more of their disposable income on housing than they should be. And so it’s a statewide goal, and the city has wrapped their arms around pursuing and increasing the supply of all different types of housing, so that everyone has a place to live that they can afford.”

She said the city will continue to work toward creating more housing options to fulfill multiple needs.

The council believes it’s working to make up for a housing shortage, because of the growth the city has experienced in recent years.

Wider uses for Juniper Ridge

Councilors also moved to update the city’s development code in a wide variety of areas. One expands what can be built in the Juniper Ridge area, a large parcel of city-owned land on the northeast side of town which had been zoned only for business and industrial use.

Now the city’s looking at allowing public buildings to be built on the land.

Matt Stuart, the city’s urban renewal manager, said the possibility of moving some city facilities to juniper ridge could be a good option for the future.

“We’re really running out of space with our current facilities,” Stuart said. “We’re looking for opportunities to consolidate and relocate. So we have identified Juniper Ridge as a potential suitor for our city facilities, in terms of utilities and streets and operations.

“So this code change really allows that sort of use to move toward Juniper Ridge and actually develop. We would still have to meet current design guidelines and CC&R’s (covenants, conditions and restrictions). It does not exclude any of that, but it does allow us to explore that opportunity.”

Right now, Juniper Ridge has four lots for sale as the city continues to work to develop that land, where Les Schwab moved its headquarters from Prineville several years ago.

Stuart said it could be a good place for the city of Bend to utilize to keep up with growth.

Could City Hall move?

And that might not be the only change coming to the location of city facilities. City Hall could eventually be relocated from its downtown location.

That’s still far off, if it happens. But for some time, the current City Hall has been bursting at the seams, even though the city now occupies five buildings downtown.

The city is looking at a potential move to the central area, bounded by the east side of Highway 97 from Revere Avenue to the north to the railroad tracks to the south, around Colorado Avenue.

City councilors are supportive of looking into such an option.

Third Street-Pinebrook Boulevard safety improvements

In addition, a busy intersection at the south end of Bend will be getting some safety improvements.

Third Street at Pinebrook Boulevard has been the scene of several crashes and one death in the last five years.

City councilors voted Wednesday to approve a project that would add a median safety island for pedestrians as well as flashing beacons.

Right now, the city says only about half the drivers stop for people trying to cross Third Street in that area.

But flashing beacons in other areas have led to about 80% of drivers yielding to pedestrians.

A bus stop will also be relocated.

Tougher fireworks rules

Councilors also approved a change in the code that will allow Bend police to issue more citations for illegal fireworks.

Until now, city code regulated only the use of fireworks. The code change would allow police to cite people for possessing illegal fireworks.

The citation would be settled in court, rather than treated as a civil penalty under the state fire marshal’s rules.

A second reading and vote on the code change is scheduled for Nov. 6

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