The city of Bend Tuesday delayed the biggest expansion in that city's history. The 1500-acre Juniper Ridge project included a plan to add a university, two shopping districts, and thousands of homes. But now that dream could be at risk, as Ethan Lindsey reports from Bend.
Juniper Ridge isn't your grandma's urban growth boundary expansion.
The city okay'ed a PR campaign for the thing. There's been countless town hall meetings. And even promotional videos.
Promotional Video: “This will not be an old standard industrial park. We think this will attract the kind of jobs that are really driving the new economy in the United States and the World.”
For the past two years, Bend has been touting Juniper Ridge as the future for this — Oregon's fastest growing — city.
The idea was to build a huge new neighborhood on the city's northeast side.
But critics, including several old-time mayors, call it a screwed-up backroom deal between the city council and private developers.
Jerry Mitchell is the city's development manager for Juniper Ridge. He says this delay is, for the most part, about road costs.
The Oregon Department of Transportation raised objections about how much new streets and infrastructure would cost.
Jerry Mitchell: “Assuming we identify a solution that's acceptable to ODOT and acceptable to the community, and we have a reasonable funding strategy for that, then we would be in a position to make a commitment on the development agreement.”
Mayor Bruce Abernethy says the city has to share some blame for the screw-up.
Bruce Abernethy: “We went farther than we should have without having this transportation piece more solidified.”
But Mayor Abernethy says the delay is not an intentional hang up to stop the deal.
Bruce Abernnethy: “Anytime you are in a negotiated deal, you don't know how people are going to respond to this or to the delay. We need the cost estimates to figure out does the current proposal bring enough to the deal.”
Mitchell, the city's point man on Juniper Ridge, says he thinks the developer might be scared off by the news.
Jerry Mitchell: “Obviously we are in dialogue with the developer and we might have a lot better idea about that in the next few days.”
The developer, Juniper Ridge Partners, wouldn't return repeated calls for comment.
The deal has major ramifications for Bend and the state. Juniper Ridge was supposed to be a forward-looking growth plan that other cities in the state would model themselves after.
Now the city could be on the hook for $2.5 million if it backs out of the deal with private developers.