OSU-Cascades: Fall 2015 campus goal unlikely

Backup plans call for temporary classrooms, housing

OSU-Cascades races the clock

BEND, Ore. - In the fall of 2015, Bend will start to look different. For the first time, freshmen will show up in the fall, ready to begin the start of their college careers at a four-year university, OSU Cascades. 

Central to that vision is the development of a brand new campus on Bend's Westside, at the intersection of Century Drive and Chandler Avenue. 

But even with a very optimistic view of a tight land-use planning process, it now appears the fall 2015 goal won't be met -- not in terms of a campus set to go on the desired location.

"I will say that I don't believe that on August 20th we could open the physical campus in 2015 at this point -- that's just not enough time," Kelly Sparks, associate vice president for finance and strategic planning at OSU-Cascades, told NewsChannel 21.

The university is citing a choice by the city of Bend planning department to elevate the site plan review of the Westside campus to a hearings officers. 

Our own investigation showed the timeline probably meant a delay anyway. 

As it stands, OSU-Cascades submitted site plans to the city on Friday. That starts a 120-day clock for the city to respond. 

In this case, a hearings officer, generally a land use attorney contracted by the city, will make the final decision after a public hearing, likely to be scheduled for late May or early June. 

Even if there are no challenges to the site plan, OSU would not likely get approval to start construction until late July or early August. 

With a 13- to 15-month construction schedule, fall 2015 is in doubt. 

Kirby Naglehout Construction built Cascades Hall on COCC's campus.  They reported it took 15 months from getting hired, to finishing the project.  OSU-Cascades has yet to even hire a contractor.

There is also a local group calling itself "Truth in Site." The group has publicly stated opposition to the Westside location for the campus and has threatened an appeal. 

The Bend City Council can hear that appeal, or pass it along to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).  If an appeal goes to LUBA, a hearing is not likely until December or January.  The major portion of construction would be held up until LUBA makes its ruling.

While the physical campus will likely not be open in the fall of 2015, classes will. 

"We will still be ready to welcome ready to welcome our first freshman class,"  Sparks said.

OSU-Cascades is in talks with COCC to continue using Cascades Hall for classes until the new campus is complete. As well, the university has its Graduate Research Center on Colorado Avenue, and it has hired a Realtor to look for additional space.

Here's how OSU-Cascades announced the slipping schedule in a news release Monday afternoon:

Oregon State University - Cascades submitted a completed site application to the City of Bend on Friday for the first phase of its development of a new four-year branch university campus on a 10-acre property in west Bend.

Over the next 120 days, OSU-Cascades will engage with the city of Bend and the community in the land-use process to fully support code requirements for the 10-acre property, which already meets city zoning as a university campus.

City of Bend officials anticipate a public hearing on OSU-Cascades' application in May or June.

At the same time, OSU-Cascades is also planning for contingencies, should the land use process be extended, by providing for temporary classrooms and housing within West Bend for undergraduate students in fall 2015.

"While the 10-acre property is zoned for use as a university, we understand that the city of Bend has elevated the application review to a hearings officer in anticipation of an appeal," said OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson. "The elevated process and any appeals will extend the campus development timeline beyond the initial estimate."

On the academic planning side, faculty hiring and academic course planning is underway to provide in fall 2015 for the launch of a full slate of required undergraduate baccalaureate core courses.

"The academic planning is fully on track and we will be prepared in fall 2015 with new faculty to teach the freshman and sophomore courses that will expand OSU-Cascades to a four-year university," said Johnson.

Tune in next Monday night for Part 2 of our special series on the OSU-Cascades Westside campus, as we look at the arguments in favor of the location.

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