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OSU-Cascades: Weighing Westside pros, cons

By Renee Nelson
Published On: May 19 2014 04:12:15 PM CDT
Updated On: May 20 2014 02:42:48 PM CDT

In the fourth and final part of our special series on OSU-Cascades' controversial Westside campus site, NewsChannel 21's Renee Nelson looks at some of the issues and the facts surrounding them

BEND, Ore. -

OSU-Cascades officials had hoped to avoid a contentious land use battle over its choice for a four-year campus. Today, that doesn't appear to be the case. But are all of the university's arguments for, or opposing groups' arguments against the university's Westside plans based on facts?

OSU-Cascades Vice President of Finance Kelly Sparks says: "Our total size at 5,000 students will still be less than the 7,500 students currently at COCC."

The location is just one misconception OSU-Cascades hopes to clear up about its Westside choice.

Does more students mean more cars? The group Truth in Site says roads are already congested, with failing roundabouts. The Westside will house hundreds of new homes along with a planned new elementary and middle school, so the idea the university expansion is solely responsible for a potential increase in traffic -- that is fiction.  

Concerns about students and faculty not able to find affordable housing have been a hot topic. The fact is, the university will require freshman to live on campus, so their housing is covered.

Then again, the idea that "affordable housing is readily available" is fiction, too.

Bend's current rental vacancy rate is just 1 percent, and it's even tighter in Redmond, far lower than the 5 percent figure that industry experts say would signal a healthier -- and less frustrating -- real estate market.

Early debate surfaced around the idea that the expansion would have a negative impact on property values, but OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson is quick to point out the positives.

"Some of the most desirable residential property in Corvallis is right across from the university," she said.

But data shows the Corvallis market tops out under $2 million, while Bend's high end reaches almost $10 million right across the street -- and that discrepancy could impact neighborhoods.

However, the idea that the campus expansion can only have negative effects on property values isn't true. Real estate experts tell us with an increase in demand,  property values could see a boost.  

Some have argued universities bring crime and security issues. Oregon State Police are contracted to provide services at OSU's Corvallis campus. but OSP spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings says they are not currently contracted to provide those services at the new campus.

Did the university ever consider other sites, and did it rush to a decision about the site? The university says it communicated its intention to select property on the Westside back in 2009.

"No matter what the project, the land use battle is a contentious one," Johnson said.

Going from an initial staff decision to a hearings officer instead, according to city officials, is a more efficient way to deal with potential opposition.

Whether you are for or against the university's expansion plans and site choice, you can have your voice heard. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 10th, when anyone can testify and anyone can submit written testimony for consideration.

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