In a split 4-2 vote on a long-contentious project, a divided Bend City Council agreed Wednesday night to extend an 8-year-old development agreement with the owners of The Riverhouse to add up to 350 more homes along the River’s Edge Golf Course.
With Mayor Jeff Eager absent, councilors Tom Greene, Scott Ramsay, Mark Capell and Kathie Eckman agreed to move forward with the seven-year extension of the 2004 development agreement with River’s Edge Investments LLC, while colleagues Jodie Barram and Jim Clinton voted no.
In exchange for the new deal, The Riverhouse owner Wayne Purcell and his partners have agreed to drop a pending lawsuit against the city. They also agreed to spend about $100,000 to upgrade a sewer pump system, something the city otherwise would have to pay for, said City Attorney Mary Winters.
In echoes of the long legal battle years ago over the hotel’s proposed, now-built convention center, foes cited issues from outdated studies to traffic, tree removal, density and a protected pair of golden eagles.
But River’s Edge attorney Sharon Smith said the proposal actually reduces the number of lots to be developed from the original 2004 study. She also said the two adolescent eagles are nesting on a developed residential lot. Fellow attorney Neil Bryant also noted the reduced density and said The Riverhouse had invested over $5 million in infrastructure.
In response to a question from Barram, serving as mayor pro tem, about why River’s Edge waited until just before the initial 7-year agreement was to expire, Bryant said they had hoped to complete the work,d espite the pending lawsuit, but noted the uncertain economy. He said the owners wanted to settle the suit and begin a new era with the city.
Capell said many feel the initial development agreement was “terribly written” and too unclear on key issues. Winters told councilors that she would have preferred to rewrite it entirely but that the city and developers had come to terms and the new deal is an improvement.
Clinton claimed the agreement bypasses the city’s typical review process, but city Community Development Director Mel Oberst said River’s Edge still will have to follow up with site plan, subdivision and plat reviews before they can build. Winters said the planned phase development over five years also would be easier for the city infrastructure to handle.
In other action, councilors unanimously agreed to provide $250,000 out of $2 million in unexpected revenue for the campaign by Oregon State University to build a four-year campus in Bend – half toward the development and the other half to help cover city development fees.