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‘It’s not just about 4 trees’: Tree removal from NE Bend affordable housing project sparks neighbors’ concern

(Update: Adding video, comments from woman, city planner and land trust developer)

City of Bend approves four trees to be cut down for solar panels

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Neighbors in northeast Bend's Orchard District noticed last week that unbeknownst to them, several tall trees were marked for removal in a nearby affordable housing project-- and now, a resident is expressing her dismay about four trees' removal, for solar panels, after residents voiced concerns to the city.

Developers must follow city codes in order to build in Bend. The current tree preservation code obligates the City of Bend to approve the removal of trees in the name of needed housing and certain utilities.

Ashlee Henninger said Thursday she contacted the city and asked why four of the oldest and tallest trees on Eighth Street were marked for removal, a change from the proposed Kôr Community Land Trust project plans sent earlier to area residents.

After those concerns were raised, she said, the four trees were removed Wednesday, reportedly to make room for solar panels. She says that tree removal was not part of the original plan -- and that neighbors were not notified when plans changed.

"If the city is going to allow that to be a justification for tree removal, and developers find out that's all they have to do to clear-cut Bend, as we grow -- it's going to become a city of solar panels and concrete sprawl and houses crammed into lots," she told NewsChannel 21.

Henninger says she thinks the city code has a loophole for developers -- and that it will keep happening.

"As the city continues to be developed, if this continues to happen, it's not just about four trees, it's about this lot and that lot and every other development that's going to happen in town," she said.

Nicolas Lennartz, an associate planner with the city, says they revised the project's plans and sent notice to neighbors in June of 2020. He says the development did meet the city's requirements to cut down the trees.

"This project, being an affordable housing cottage subdivision, is certainly considered needed housing, and by the looks of it, the solar panels on the top of the development required the removal of trees," Lennartz said. "The developer actually looked into other options for retention of the trees, limbing the trees, other ways to keep the trees, even with installation of the solar panels. But it was ultimately found that for the panels to be viable financially for the site, that they had to be removed."

Lennartz says the city is working to revise its tree protection approval process.

The developer, meanwhile, says they kept eight other "significant trees" on that property -- and that solar panels will help lower-income households who are burdened by energy bills. 

Kôr Community Land Trust provided the following statement Thursday afternoon to NewsChannel 21:

"Kôr Community Land Trust is a nonprofit that creates sustainable, affordable homeownership communities for Central Oregon’s workforce. We are developing our second community of affordable cottage clusters, which will serve 5 families earning between 40% AMI (average median income) to 120% AMI. These are working families who can qualify for a mortgage, but cannot afford to purchase a home on the rising market when their own wages remain stagnant.

"Kôr recognizes the inequities that persist in mid-size cities and rural counties in Central Oregon as vacation homes and the zoom-town phenomenon threatens to displace Central Oregon’s workforce, and disproportionately lower-income households.

"Kôr is not only committed to breaking down barriers for lower-income households to access affordable homeownership, it is also committed to energy justice. Lower-income households are disproportionately burdened by energy insecurity due to their likelihood to live in older, energy-inefficient homes. This causes increased housing costs and unhealthy living conditions, linking housing to health insecurities. The persistent income and health inequality perpetuates instability that leads to generational poverty. This is why Kôr builds net-zero homes for Bend's lower-income residents. We want to ensure income does not negate access to energy efficiency systems and the health and utility cost savings that comes with it.

"At the Orchard District property, Kôr kept 8 significant trees on the property and only plans to cut down 4 significant trees to ensure proper function of the solar panels to ensure our units are built net zero. Any other trees that were removed were either already dead or required by the city's safety standards to ensure clear vision of cars leaving and entering the property."

Central Oregon / Government-politics / Local News / News / Top Stories
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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.

Comments

33 Comments

      1. You have to be one of the best business people in the world. You know all about running economies. Why don’t you start up an electric company and show all us deploreables how it’s done.

  1. Cognitive dissonance…trees on the one hand, solar panels on the other…and all in the name of affordable housing.

    Affordable Housing – GOOD
    Solar – GOOD
    Trees – GOOD

    What to do…who’s the bad guy?

      1. Then how is it that Ms. Henninger thinks she has any say about them? Trees that are owned by someone else, on someone else’s private property. They’re not your trees, dear.

  2. This city HATES trees!! The planning board and city council do not believe the Bend needs trees. They believe that we are in dire need of more people, condos, hotels, pavement, houses, buildings, solar panels, Airbnbs,… etc. Anything but trees! Trees are in the way of everything and just so easy to cut down. In a couple years time this affordable housing will not longer be affordable. Not sure why the solar panels couldn’t go on top the houses?

      1. There are comparable prices wind turbines that can be attached to homes that produce low cost electricity in line with solar panels the developer could have used instead of cutting trees. We need an ordinance that when a tree is cut, three more must be planted by the developer at some location within the city limits! City council, make it happen!

  3. Back in my day “Affordable Housing” was living with roommates in an apartment or moving to the next town over where the rent was cheaper.

  4. couple times a year this same or similar story comes, out and some newbie is interviewed and says the same thing. You can always tell they think the city shouldn’t change after they arrive, LMAO.

      1. Ain’t just newbies. How many comments do you see here along the effect of “I grew up here and liked it the way it used to be [whether or not this memory is accurate]. I want Bend to stay exactly the same and not change at all [because that’s the way I like it].”

    1. So what’s worse? The one that moves in that doesn’t realize that by moving here, they create the changes they don’t want or the one that moves here and expects things to change to suit them. I especially liked the one a couple of years ago that made the front page. She moved in from back East, bought a house by the railroad tracks and then wanted the trains to stop blowing their horns because it scared her grandkids.

  5. I’m not so sure there really is a City tree policy. Two year’s ago, my neighbor clearcut his whole backyard, three very big trees came down so he could build a small cabin. The cabin took up about 200 square feet. He paved the entire remaining part of his back yard for his RV storage. Was that essential, Mr. City Planner?

  6. I’ll wager that the construction of most the housing in Bend has required tree removal. Rooftop solar panels need unrestricted exposure to the sun, further increasing the number of trees that must be removed if the panels are to serve any purpose. So it comes down to: construction = some trees removed, construction with solar panels = more trees removed. I reckon the job is to design around the trees as much as possible. And if the city did notify the neighbors in 2020 as they claim, then, well . . . did anyone object then?

  7. Trees are beautiful and so is Central Oregon. It’s too bad that people think everyone is rich. In this Poverty with a view you can’t rent an apartment anymore. In Redmond they are putting up apartments all over. I called one two days ago that said their two BDRM’s are 1875.00 and the tenants have to pay water, sewer, and garbage! 😳 I couldn’t believe it. The ones that were already built were full! It’s only going to get worse. I just pray that those people who own them are saved because I can’t imagine anyone paying house amount for a two bdrm apartment. Pray 🙏 everyone. Like I said….it’s just going to get worse. 🙄

  8. Does solar really ‘pencil out’ financially in Bend? I have a 600 square foot apartment in Bend; it is older, but pretty well insulated and double-pane glass. My gas and electric bills for the year average about $45 per month total. I don’t see how solar could be economically viable in an area with really cheap utility rates. That is, without subsidies. The developer justifies his panels by playing the economic justice card, but I don’t think it works here in Bend.

    1. It doesn’t matter whether or not solar and wind pencil out (for one it doesn’t). We will all be forced to use it “for the children” and to line the pockets of politically connected corporations. You really think GE cares about saving the planet when they stand to make trillions in subsidies and “green” energy mandates?

  9. Trees removed for Chinese made solar panels. Solar panels made from “dirty” coal. Children and minorities hardest hit. I love when progressives are confronted by their own “intersectionality.”

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