BNC white paper on citizen involvement in land use issues

In March of 2019, the Bend Neighborhood Coalition presented a white paper to the Neighborhood Leadership Alliance (NLA) focused on improvements to public notifications related to land use matters before the City. The newly-formed NLA, a standing committee of the City Council, had been tasked with reviewing the notification process and making recommendations to the Council.

While the NLA was being formed, BNC sponsored a task force made up of ten representatives of the neighborhood associations to do the necessary homework that the NLA would need on this topic. The task force worked from July 2018 through February 2019 to complete its research and recommendations. The result is the white paper that can be accessed here.

Pages 2 to 6 of the white paper offer a sort of primer on the land use process for those unfamiliar with the requirements for new development projects and for changes to governing documents like the Comprehensive Plan and the Bend Development Code.

Over the year and a half since the paper was submitted, a work group on land use appointed by the NLA addressed many of the 19 recommendations. One suggestion, e-mailing notices to the NA land use chairs (along with traditional mailings), has already been implemented. A redesign of the notice signs posted on properties has been in the works, along with an effort to devise a “plain English” description of each project for use in all notifications. The NLA asked the Council to consider extending the period for public comment. Action on some other suggestions, like standardizing the radius for notifications at 500 feet from a property, has been stalled by the impact of the coronavirus emergency in 2020 on committee meetings.

2018 city council candidate questionnaire

The Bend Neighborhood Coalition asked the candidates for City Council and Mayor in 2018 to address several issues affecting neighborhood livability. Eight of the twelve candidates responded to the questionnaire.

To read or download the complete responses, click here.

Among the questions, we asked the candidates where they stand on 8 policy issues. Here’s how their responses compared with BNC positions (% in agreement):

The top 5 issues on which the candidates were most in agreement are the following (note that the first three were also in the top 5 in 2016, but no progress was made on them):

  • Establishing a university district to concentrate campus-related development in adjoining mixed use zones, while protecting the character of nearby residential neighborhoods
  • Establishing parking districts in areas where nearby uses (commercial, educational, etc.) create excessive demand by non-residents
  • Planning for one or more entertainment districts where outdoor amplified music and late-night entertainment is concentrated and allowed to operate under more relaxed guidelines
  • Developing code regulating events on private property (e.g., duration, frequency, proximity to other uses, requirements for parking, public safety, etc.)
  • Creating neighborhood compatibility zones to buffer residential areas from the offsite impacts of adjoining commercial and mixed use areas (through a step-down in permitted uses)

BNC City Council Candidate Forum Oct 14th

The Bend Neighborhood Coalition will hold a candidate forum on Sunday, October 14th from 3:00 – 5:15 at Wille Hall in the Coats Campus Center on COCC’s Bend campus. This will be the only forum focused on livability and the challenges growth presents to the quality of life in Bend.

One of BNC’s goals is to encourage civic dialog about livability. This fall’s city council election presents an opportunity to engage the candidates in this dialog.

This will be one of the few forums with no charge to attendees.

The moderator for the forum will be Lisa Carton, the news anchor of Zolo Media’s Central Oregon Daily broadcast. Lisa is experienced in reporting on national and local elections. She will ask and follow up on a handful of prepared questions, as well as some questions submitted by members of the audience.

Due to the large number of candidates this year, the first hour will focus on the mayoral race (position 7), then, following a brief break, the second hour will feature the two at-large council seats (positions 5 and 6). There are six candidates for mayor and three for each of the council positions.

Please plan to arrive early or stay after to mingle with the candidates. We have asked them to be available for 30 minutes before and after the forum. Parking is available along College Way or in Lot D (next to the library), at the corner of College Way & Regency St.

Public meeting: The Shape of Bend to Come

When & where:

Tuesday, June 12th, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Downtown Library, Brooks Room 
(just inside the front entrance)

Why it’s important:

As Bend grows, new ideas will shape the way the city looks and feels. This meeting is a chance to learn about two of those ideas and see how they’re applied in a major new development.

Learn about:

  • Mixed use zones, especially the new mixed urban (MU) and mixed neighborhood (MN) zones.
  • The City’s nine new opportunity areas.
  • OSU-Cascades’ long-range plan for its campus.


  • For the City of Bend:  Damian Syrnyk, Senior Planner, Growth Management Department
  • For OSU-Cacades:  Kelly Sparks, Associate Vice President, Finance & Strategic Planning; and Blair Garland, Senior Director, Community Relations and Marketing

UGB plans should address affordable housing goals

The City Council is scheduled to vote April 18, 2018 on a staff plan to prioritize the development of five opportunity areas in the center of the City and an expansion area in the far southeast of Bend. The Council requested community input on the plan and held a public hearing.

BNC submitted comments to the public record expressing concern that the plan may not address Council Goal 3 to meet the need for a better mix of housing types and for more affordable housing units.

The idea of prioritizing the investment of public resources in a few expansion and opportunity areas would usually make sense. However, the City’s projected rapid population growth and urgent need for housing, especially affordable housing, argue for a plan that includes all UGB-targeted areas.

Among other challenges, the City’s plans need to reflect the demographics of its growing population. For example, changes to city code over the last two years create an incentive to build lots of studios and 1-BR units, but data indicates that 80% of demand is from retirees, empty-nesters, and young families, for whom these housing types are likely to be unappealing.

To read the BNC comments, click here.

City needs to help build a campus community

OSU-Cascades presented its master plan for further development of its westside campus to the Bend Planning Commission (PC) on April 9, 2018. Following a public hearing, the PC voted 4-1 to recommend the plan to the City Council for approval.

In comments to the PC, BNC chair Bill Bernardy, supported the plan and cited the university’s community engagement process as a model for the City.  Hundreds of volunteers provided input, which the university has incorporated into its plans, including setting a goal of housing 40% of students on campus.

Bernardy called on the PC to insist that the Council address issues the PC brought to the City’s attention in a 2013 letter, but which have not been acted upon in nearly five years, including forming a Town & Gown Committee, hiring a staff member for campus-related work, and adopting policies to mitigate the impact of the campus on nearby neighborhoods and the City as a whole.

The goal should be to build a campus community, not just a campus.

To read the comments submitted to the Planning Commission, click here.

City survey about events on private property

On February 21, 2018, the City Council will take up measures recommended by City staff to minimize offsite impacts of events on private property, such as noise and parking. In order to obtain feedback prior to the meeting from businesses and residents, the City has posted a survey (click here) on its web site; responses will be collected through Friday night, Feb. 9, 2018.

BNC has prepared a two-page background piece about the issues addressed in the survey to help citizens better understand the issues and respond to the survey (click here to read the document). Here’s a summary:

  • Noise Variances: BNC requested that variances be limited or denied within 250 feet of homes, because some events can be too close to homes to be compatible. Sound, of course, falls off with distance, so some space is needed for sound levels to drop. While the 2015 administrative policy allows for considering proximity to residences, this has not been applied consistently. It should be. The staff recommends no changes.
  • Temporary Change of Occupancy Permits: BNC supports the staff-recommended limit of three TCOs per location per year. If the Council prefers more flexibility for multi-business locations, we suggest two per business and five per property, with a requirement that the applicant be a legal occupant of the premises. Nearly all of the ten or so properties that request TCOs in a year do so for only one indoor event, but one location received over 20 for outdoor events in the past two years. This permit is intended to be temporary, not a way of creating an event center by skirting land use codes and proper City and public review.
  • Parking Plans:  BNC supports the recommendation that a business intending to use its parking lot for an event be required to submit a parking plan to the City in conjunction with its review of applications for temporary alcohol (OLCC) licenses. The plan would have to meet federal ADA/accessibility standards. Since not all events involve an OLCC license, a plan should also be required for those with more than a certain number of attendees.

We believe that the long-term solution to managing events is to have more official event venues, regulated by a City event center code, and located far enough from residences so that sound levels and parking aren’t a problem.

Noise is getting attention

Recent articles in the Source Weekly and the Bend Bulletin, along with a report on KTVZ highlighted controversies over the City’s noise ordinance and unregulated event centers. Please click on the links to review the coverage if you haven’t seen it.

The media attention was prompted by an online petition by a concert promoter who claimed that efforts to correct flaws in the noise ordinance were aimed at killing live, outdoor music in Bend.

BNC has always said that updating city code isn’t about music — it’s about noise. Many cities have both vibrant music scenes and quiet neighborhoods. The fact that Bend doesn’t have both doesn’t mean that it can’t.

Among the cities with lower decibel limits for residential zones are:  Oregon cities, including Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Gresham, and Hillsboro; tourist towns like Nashville (“music city”), Boulder, Santa Fe, and Aspen; and major urban areas, including Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami.

Proposed Livability Committee

The BNC steering committee joined representatives of several neighborhood associations (NAs) in a recent meeting with three city councilors (Roats, Livingston, and Moseley) to discuss forming a standing committee to address the impacts of growth on livability.

Many in the room favored the proposal by Councilor Bill Moseley. He was involved in forming the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board, which reports to the Council. He thinks Bend should have a comprehensive, strategic approach to livability concerns and believes a structure like BEDAB would help move policy alternatives to the Council for deliberation.

Others in the meeting thought the city didn’t need another committee, but should further empower the NAs. One way to do this would be to give official recognition to the Neighborhood Association Round Table (NART), which is only an ad hoc group at this time. NA representatives serving on NART would then do some of the work envisioned for a livability committee.

Whether either idea will be acted on remains unclear. Mayor Roats seemed to prefer recognizing NART, but expressed a concern that neighborhoods across the city have different priorities, and might have trouble separating immediate problems from what’s best for long-term citywide policies.

BNC favors both empowering neighborhood associations and forming a standing committee

BNC believes there doesn’t have to be a choice between empowering the NAs and having a better structure for getting livability issues before the Council. To be effective, the NAs need some additional support from the City and clear direction on what is expected from them. They also need to know that they can and should take positions on issues before the City. At the same time, a group appointed by the Council (including NA reps), with a standing parallel to BEDAB, would facilitate access to the Council regarding livability issues.

BNC noise strategy

The Neighborhood Coalition has released an updated summary of the issues with Bend’s noise policies and practices. (To read the full statement, click here.)

The BNC steering committee discussed its suggested approach to dealing with noise in a meeting with City Councilor Bill Moseley. He was recently successful in getting a majority of councilors to agree to hold a work session to address how the current noise ordinance is implemented. The focus will be on “living within limits” — that is, limiting noise variances and temporary occupancy permits that have enabled event organizers to hold large concerts and competitions adjacent to residential areas.

BNC supports this short-term effort to direct the city manager to implement current policies in a more restrained and balanced manner. We have listed eight areas in which permissive interpretations, poor enforcement, and a lack of discretion in issuing variances have caused continuing conflicts.

Next year, we want to see the Council adopt minor changes to the noise ordinance that bring it into line with practices in other cities. This includes reducing decibel limits and setting a limit for mixed use zones.

In 2019, the Council should consider new policies that strengthen city code by moving from a complaint-driven approach to noise to a prevention-oriented one (like the Austin model) and by addressing the need for regulation of outdoor event centers.