Bend's OSU-Cascades four-year university is set to open in the fall of 2015, but not everyone is on board -- and some are threatening to take the Westside location pick to court, saying it's not a wise decision
Two weeks ago, a group called the "Truth in Site Coalition" formed, and on Thursday night about 200 people attended the group's first meeting at the Bend Armory to have their voices heard and plan a path to push for changes.
Coalition leaders say they are raising $50,000 to take legal action against the school to halt the process and force a new look for a new location.
OSU-Cascades officials said site selection planning started a couple years ago, but the opposition believes further public vetting needs to be done.
“Take a step back, get some perspective on the thing, and select the right location,” said Scott Morgan, a member of “Truth in Site Coalition”
The new four-year campus location was chosen as the corner of Chandler and Colorado Avenue on the west side of Bend, partly a former pumice mine.
The initial campus is expected to be a little over 10 acres, with the expectation of further growth.
Morgan made clear Thursday night that they are not against a four-year university in Bend.
"What we're not for is this shoehorned 'put it together at the last minute' deal," he said.
Top issues raised involved traffic, lack of adequate housing and a feared hit on property values.
Juniper Ridge on Bend's north end was the site mentioned as preferable by many. But one woman said the college wants a close-in campus because its students will and, urged the foes to instead spend the money on trying to make the site work.
But earlier Thursday, school officials expressed confidence the site pick will withstand the test.
“We are very excited about our location," said Kelly Sparks, associate vice president of finance and strategic planning at OSU-Cascades. "We think we have a beautiful concept for it, and we believe we're building an amenity that's for our community,”
Morgan, a resident of Bend's Westside, said is in favor of the university, just not at the projected location.
“We are proponents of a thriving and successful four-year university in Central Oregon, but think there are some significant challenges with this proposed site,” Morgan said.
Some of those challenges include traffic and parking.
Sparks said the university wants an urban integrated campus in the heart of Bend to cater to its students.
“The closer you live, the more of a community, and truly the better academic experience for our students,” Sparks said.
Morgan said he would have liked to see more parties involved in the decision-making process that will have a major impact on the city for decades to come.
“I'm convinced that if the state, the county, the city and the citizens of this city are behind this, then the best site will surface,” Morgan said.
In quarter-page newspaper ads run in recent days, the group urges others to contribute their 'expertise and money to a united effort to provide legal and technical challenges" to the OSU-Cascades' site plan application and strategic plan.
The "Truth in Site Coalition" says it already has raised $10,000 in its effort to take legal action. You can learn more at the group's Facebook page, OSU Cascades - Truth in Site.