‘Dismayed and disappointed,’ and now a difficult choice: Wait for city to plan area, or find a new location?
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Bend city councilors indicated last week the Deschutes Public Library left them stuck between a rock and a hard place, when after split testimony in a public hearing they turned down a request to make an exception to city land-use rules and clear the way for a 100,000-square-foot Central Library at Highway 20 and O.B. Riley Road.
And the library system returned the “favor” on Thursday, saying the city council had left them stuck between a similar rock and a hard place.
As a result, they said, they are now left with no good options to make happen what they’ve promised voters. So they withdrew their request before the city this week, saying councilors’ refusal to do as they asked for now likely means either a years-long delay before the new library can be built, or finding another site without such a hurdle to clear.
Here’s the library system’s news release, in full:
Deschutes Public Library Withdraws Text and Map Amendment Filings
from the City of Bend
March 24, 2022 (Bend, Oregon) — The Deschutes Public Library (DPL) withdrew its text amendment and map filings with the City of Bend effective Tuesday, March 22, 2022. The text amendment was the first step in annexing the land to allow construction of the Central Library, the bond measure approved by voters in November 2020.
The library’s decision came after a hearing before the Bend City Council on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in which the majority of council members opposed the library’s request which would have allowed the library to develop property near Robal Lane and Highway 20 using the text amendment process.
“From our perspective, this was a reasonable request based on numerous conversations with city staff (dating from before the property was purchased), the City Planning Commission’s approval to move forward, and strong public support for the project,” said Library Director Todd Dunkelberg. “We thought this request had both merit and precedent since the City of Bend has just used this method to allow annexation and construction of North Star Elementary School just a stone throw away.”
The library filed the text amendment as an alternative to the City’s current code provisions that outline two methods land development in urban growth expansion areas:
- The City of Bend initiates and completes an Area Planning effort for the OB Riley area. City staff confirmed that this Area Plan is not on the city’s work plan for the foreseeable future.
- A Master Plan application encompassing at least 40 acres is created, submitted, and approved by the city. Since DPL owns just 12.75 acres and with only one property in the OB Riley area adjoining its property, the library’s options are limited to one specific property owner who is not able to proceed with a master plan. DPL has had extensive conversations with this family over the last two years and respects the right of its neighbor’s position.
With the Area Plan and Master Plan options exhausted, the library’s remaining path forward was to proceed with the proposed text amendment, an alternative method used to allow elementary school siting on less than 20 acres. The library argued that the method recognized the special challenges public agencies face in acquiring land and building projects for the public good. The amendment would have allowed this process to be used by schools and libraries in the remaining UGB expansion areas without an area or master plan. An accompanying map amendment would have transferred residential zoning from the library and North Star school properties to privately held land in the OB Riley area, preserving it for future development.
The City Planning Commission recommended approval of the library’s text and map amendments to the City Council, but the majority of council members stated their unwillingness to allow the library to proceed without a master plan or area plan.
“We assumed that our proposal would be decided based on its merits, not on the perceived politics and misinformation of the moment,” Dunkelberg said. “We are disappointed by the City Council’s lack of support but look forward to a new direction to provide essential library services for the Bend community and throughout Deschutes County.”
For more information, please contact Library Director Todd Dunkelberg at [email protected] or (541) 312-1021.
Dunkelberg told NewsChannel 21 later Thursday that they either must wait for the city to plan out the area, which is “not on their timeline, or move on to another property.” Asked about claim the city council made a decision based on politics or misinformation from opponents, he said, “I’m not sure what’s swaying them.”
The decision on how to proceed now will be up to the library board in coming weeks, he said.
The day after the council hearing, Dunkelberg had told NewsChannel 21 he was hopeful of still moving “forward to bring this area into the city, using another process.”
But he said Thursday the pending application was withdrawn this week “based on advice from our attorney, and after talking with city staff. We didn’t want to make them continue working on this when it’s pretty much a dead deal.”
“It is frustrating for us,” Dunkelberg said. “We feel this is a really public benefit for our community, and it’s frustrating we’re not able to move forward.”
In the withdrawal letter to councilors and city Senior Planner Karen Swenson, Dunkelberg said the impact of the council’s decision has ramifications “far beyond the library,” including other library improvements contingent on the new facility and impacts on Highway 20 corridor improvements and other area road extensions and improvements.
“We cannot see a remaining path forward for DPL to proceed with the Central Library on this site,” he wrote.
Here’s the withdrawal letter sent to the city on Tuesday: