Master Planning the Campus

OSU-Cascades is planning a four year university in Bend and has identified a location on the west side of Bend.  Initially, the university bought a 10 acre parcel and is seeking a site plan approval for a portion of its needs for its four year campus.  Adjacent to this 10 acres is a separate 46 acre property on which the university has an “option” to purchase—meaning, it has a right, but not an obligation, to purchase the property.  The university has stated that its decision on whether or not it will in fact purchase the property depends on certain due diligence about whether the property is suitable for development, among other factors in its sole discretion.  If the university purchases the 46 acre property, it would plan to develop the property for additional university campus needs.

Some in the community, most notably the university’s opponents Truth in Site, have argued that OSU-Cascades was obligated to “master plan” both properties before it can proceed with any development on the 10 acre property.  What is a master plan exactly?  It can have many meanings—from nefarious super villainy to mundane long range land planning.  The Bend Development Code (BDC) doesn’t specifically define what a master plan is, but its Chapter 4.5, which addresses master planning and development alternatives, identifies the purposes of master planning.  Master planning under the BDC is intended to encourage efficient and interrelated development of land that results in complete neighborhoods, mixed use development, open space protection, transportation options, site phasing of development, protection of features and amenities that otherwise would not be protected, energy conservation, infrastructure improvements, among others.  In summary, it’s more the mundane variety intended to provide more comprehensive and interrelated planning options and outcomes that may be difficult to achieve with straight zoning application.

But does the City’s master planning ordinances apply to the campus planning?  And if so, is it discretionary or mandatory?  There are two provisions of likely relevance.  First, the section addressing Master Planned Developments states that it “may be applied over any of the City’s land use districts for any property or combination of properties three (3) acres or greater in size.”  BDC 4.5.300.  This section is therefore permissive, meaning a developer may choose to follow the Master Planned Developments, but such developer is not required to do so.  That makes sense because these provisions appear intended for developers who seek to change one or more of the development standards contained in the ordinance—meaning, it is intended to provide flexibility in the requirements where needed or desired to accomplish a certain development concept.  For OSU-Cascades, that does not appear to be the case with the initial 10 acre application; however, it may be useful in its 46 acre development if it chooses to advance that.

Second, the BDO applies Master Planned Neighborhood Development in two circumstances:

  1. Mandatory Project Planning.  “For projects consisting of one or more properties totaling 20 acres or larger at the date of adoption of this ordinance a Master Planned Neighborhood Development shall be required.”  BDC 4.5.300.  This provision, while mandatory, would not appear to capture the OSU-Cascades campus project at this time because it is arguably only a 10 acre project.  The university is not legally obligated or even internally committed to building out the 46 acre property, and they have indicated that if the 46 acre property is not desirable they will pursue other expansion avenues.  Even if the 10 acre and 46 acre properties are properly considered one project (or considering the 46 acre property alone), the BDC language states that it is only required for such projects “at the date of adoption of the ordinance” which clearly pre-dated any identified campus expansion project at the sites.  In other words, the OSU-Cascades “project”—whether both phases or only the second phase—was not a “project” “at the date of adoption of the ordinance.”  It is unclear why the provision reads this way, but presumably, the City identified certain projects at the time it was considering the ordinance to which it desired master planning provisions to apply.  After adoption, the ordinance appears to base application on property acreage as defined below.
  2. 40 Acre or Larger Properties.  Master Planned Neighborhood Development applies “to all properties comprised of one or more lots, parcels, and/or tracts, in any zoning District which totals 40 acres or larger at the date of this ordinance adoption.”  This clearly does not apply to the 10 acre property since it is neither 40 acres nor in the same zoning district as the 46 acre property.   While the 46 acre property appears to meet the size requirement, it still seems unlikely the master planning provisions are required, because they appear to be required only “prior to land division approval.”  In other words, if OSU-Cascades does not plan to subdivide the 46 acre property, no master planning is required.  This provision appears intended to prevent haphazard parcelization of larger lots that result in poor urban form or access to services or unintended impacts.  It is not entirely clear whether OSU could choose to apply these provisions, as there is no clear permissive language allowing such properties to opt into the master planning provisions.

In summary, the Bend Development Ordinance does include master planning provisions.  Such provisions do not appear to apply to the 10 acre property currently under review by the City.  If OSU-Cascades pursues the 46 acre property and intends to modify certain zoning district requirements, it would need to pursue Master Planned Development under BDC 4.5.300 for that 46 acre property.  Similarly, if OSU-Cascades intended to partition or subdivide the 46 acre property, it would need to purse Master Planned Neighborhood Development under BDC 4.5.400; however, if neither of these circumstances applies, it appears that no master planning can be required of the university.