Skip to Content

Greenwood Cemetery neighbors organize to preserve placid spot, but landowner says no development planned

(Update: Statement from landowner's attorney)

BEND, Or. (KTVZ) -- A group of northeast Bend neighbors of Greenwood Cemetery started an effort to preserve the adjacent, placid green space after receiving notice of a possible zone change, and the felling of 70 trees that prompted a city stop-work order. But the property owner, Oregon Care Group LLC, says no development is contemplated.

“It’s our moral responsibility to protect this area," Save Greenwood Cemetery spokeswoman Susie Fagen-Wirges told NewsChannel21. “I cannot imagine having multiple apartments built between 12th Street and that graveyard.”

The rezoning of the property would allow the space to be potentially used for residential development,

The cemetery is located in a public facilities zone, prompting the landowner’s consideration of seeking rezoning.

“They say that because the word 'cemetery' is not listed in the conforming uses for public facilities that they cannot operate as a cemetery under public facilities," Fagen-Wirges said. "Though it has been listed as public facilities, as far as I can find, since 1998.”

Adam Smith, the landowner’s attorney, is adamant that there are no current plans to develop any part of the cemetery -- and there likely won’t be any future plans, either.

After ongoing conversations with the city of Bend, Smith told NewsChannel 21 by phone that a cemetery can now be added to the public facilities zone.

The issue became a growing concern in the community when the landowner cut down dozens of juniper trees on eight acres of undeveloped land in the cemetery late December.

“We feel that they’re not being straight with us about upcoming development," Fagen-Wirges said. "They’ve already gone in and they’ve had it surveyed, they’ve cut down 70 trees, out of clear blue, without a permit.”

The City of Bend issued the following statement about the matter:

“On December 27, 2023, the City issued a stop work order after receiving information that trees were being removed from 1220 NE Franklin. Since that time, the City has been working with the property owner to ensure that any further tree removal is in compliance with City code, which does allow removal of trees that are dead or diseased, or pose a hazard to personal safety, property, or the health of other trees.

"To authorize removal, the Planning Director must approve a report and recommendation from a certified arborist or other qualified professional. City staff have been in contact with the property owner to determine whether there is information that could support an approval authorizing removal of some trees.

"This is a different issue from any plans to develop the property. At this time, the City has not received or approved any application for development, which would go through a separate process.”

Smith explained to NewsChannel21 that the tree clearing was a matter of good stewardship — to clear out dead and infested juniper trees, and to prevent wildfires.

But Fagen-Wirges said she isn't convinced. The group hopes to prevent any possibility of housing development in the cemetery -- for now and forever.

“I’d like to appeal to the people of Bend to stop and think a little bit," she said. "Everyone gets caught up in making money, but half of this town doesn’t make money. In fact, more than half of this town doesn’t make money. They survive. They call it 'poverty with a view.; And I would like people to stop and think about what do they want to see in 20 years? High-rises? Or tranquil space where you can go and reflect on life and honor the dead?”

The landowner's attorney, Adam Smith, sent NewsChannel21 the following statement:

We have not responded to date because we first wanted to obtain clarity from the City regarding tree removal on the property.  Our intention is to provide a meaningful update for the neighborhood, and our updates regarding the tree removal project are included in the last paragraph below.

Most importantly, we want to share that we are currently working on substantial revisions to the application in response to public comments. We will share those revisions once the application is finalized. Additionally, we want to reiterate our main reasons for submitting the zone change application:

1)      The property’s current Public Facilities Zoning is not ideal because the property is not publicly owned. The Public Facilities Zone’s stated purpose is to “provide area for buildings and facilities that are owned and operated by federal, state, or local governments, public utilities, special districts or nonprofit organizations,”;

2)      The applicant is interested in correcting the zoning on site in order to explore the potential to develop the vacant portion of the property in the future. However, no decisions have been made regarding developing that vacant property.  Any future development occurring on the vacant property will need to be approved by the City.  The applicant has absolutely no intention to ever re-develop the existing Greenwood Cemetery or to propose a project on the vacant property that impacts the Greenwood Cemetery. 

To reiterate the third point above, the proposed zone change is not anticipated to have any negative impact on the Greenwood Cemetery. The applicant has every intention of continuing to operate the Greenwood Cemetery in a manner that respects and dignifies the interred individuals, and that likewise provides a peaceful place for family and friends to visit their loved ones. The applicant’s primary purpose and business model is continuing to operate the Greenwood Cemetery, and any potential development that negatively impacts the Greenwood Cemetery will not be pursued.  Stated simply, the applicant’s interest are aligned with those members of the community who wish to preserve the Greenwood Cemetery. 

Lastly, the applicant is aware of the recent news reports concerning trees being cut down on the property. Only trees that were dead, diseased, or threatening the health of other trees were cut down as part of the routine maintenance of what was otherwise an overgrown portion of the vacant property.  No portion of the vacant property was “clear cut,” nor is it the applicant’s intent to “clear cut” the property in the future. After conducting a further investigation including visiting the site, meeting with the applicant’s arborist, and discussing the situation with the applicant’s consultant team, City staff provide us direction on how to move forward with the tree project if we elect to do so in the future.   

We look forward to answering any questions and working with you in the future after we formally submit our land use application.

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Bola Gbadebo

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


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content