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Bend creating committee in effort to update, clarify developer rules for tree preservation

(Update: Adding video, comments from former city council candidate, Bend city planner)

(Bend City Council meeting to discuss committee on Wednesday)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – The city of Bend is working to establish a balance between development addressing the critical issue of housing in our community, while preserving the city's trees.

As it stands, the current development codes are geared to save trees unless it is considered impracticable.

But, there’s no clear direction for how the word “impracticable,” -- which means impossible to carry out -- should be applied. It's also unclear which trees should be preserved.

Former city council candidate, attorney and environmentalist Karon Johnson has been pushing for years for city code reform to preserve more trees, considered by many an integral part of Oregon's beauty and a much-needed provider of shade. Johnson said the current standards are not "clear and objective," as the state requires.

"The Pahlisch development on 15th and Reed Market-- there were 284 trees on the property," Johnson said Monday. "There are four remaining. Our Ponderosas are being clear-cut and they’re not being replaced.” 

Johnson drafted her own code proposals, which point out a few development projects, including the aftermath of a Hayden homes development on Neff Road. The original development proposed to save 41 trees of the 408 significant, healthy trees in the area at the time, but Johnson said only 20 are remaining. 

City councilors are being asked Wednesday evening to approve creating a Tree Regulation Update Advisory Committee, a temporary committee to develop and propose potential changes to city development codes and standards on tree preservation.

Councilors held a March 15 work session to review existing standards for tree preservation and supported updated or added standards for large-scale developments, also providing more consistency in the code and “clear and objective” standards.

The council also is interested in a tree inventory program to preserve and expand the urban canopy once the amendments are adopted.

City Planner Pauline Hardie will be managing the committee.

“With development occurring at a fast pace, and the need for housing and peoples concerns about city trees, staff has been directed by city council to work on this amendment, which does implement their council goals," Hardie said.

According to Oregon law, developers have to build to high density.

As a way of preserving higher density, Johnson suggested reducing the right of way, or curving sidewalks to go around trees.

"I cannot get an answer from the city about about why we have a 60 feet right of way, instead of 50 feet," Johnson said.

When speaking with city planners years back, Johnson said she was told the 60-foot width is needed because of the snowfall. However, she pointed out that several snowy cities still have a 50-foot right-of-way.

Hardie said a key goal of the 11 to 15-member committee will to create consistency between the Bend Code, the Bend Development Code and the city's Standards and Specifications Code to address tree management.

Parameters include exploring options for tree replacement.

“Some of the other parameters that the city council is considering or looking into is preserving larger trees," Hardie said.

Developers of affordable housing, other residential and commercial developers, neighborhoods and community organizations will be a part of the committee.

Johnson said, "To preserve the character of this city, if for no other reason, we need to focus on saving our Ponderosas."

The city has not yet determined how people would be selected to the committee.

You can review the tree code update issue summary and proposed resolution in Wednesday night's council agenda, item no. 6.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.


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