City councilors cover the gamut

From code changes and hydroelectric opportunities, to studded tires and Deschutes County’s cannabis policy, Bend City Councilors discussed a wide gamut of topics Wednesday night.

Councilors questioned how big of a return on investment the City would receive by pursuing small hydroelectric projects, as well as how long it would take before there would be a financial reward.

The proposed code, which will be presented May 4 for a public hearing, states: “Small hydroelectric facility means a hydroelectric facility that produces up to forty megawatts, and which qualifies for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) exemption for municipal use.”

Awbrey Butte is one of four potential sites where the City could generate electricity within existing pipes, said Bend Senior Policy Analyst Gillian Ockner. This electricity could be sold to the grid or used by the City.

Councilor Doug Knight said he heard projections in the preliminary feasibility report that a hydroelectric facility on Awbrey or Overturf butte could generate upwards of $900,000 a year, which would be a revenue stream that could help fund major infrastructure issues such as Mirror Pond or street repairs.  He was cautioned by the presenters that each project is site specific and that most projects have a payback between 5 to 20 years.

Next in the work session, councilors unanimously approved the first reading amending the chapter about transportation analysis in the Bend City Code.

The proposed amendments will “provide a clearer process for an applicant to analyze and evaluate potential impacts of the proposed development on the Bend Urban Area Transportation System Plan network of streets and walking, biking and transit facilities prior to submitting a development application,” according to the City of Bend issue summary. The goal is to better facilitate a safer multimodal transportation system without impacting the business community.

The topic of Mirror Pond resurfaced in the council action and reports. Councilor Victor Chudowsky said lawyers from the Bend Park & Recreation District are still in negotiations with Pacific Power.

As the action and reports continued, Knight reminded his fellow councilors that they committed to writing a letter deterring studded tires. Council decided they did not want to encourage a ban, but a fee that would offset the impact studded tires have on the roads.

“I think it’s important, yes, to preserve the right for people to decide what’s best for themselves, but realizing that that choice does come at a cost to our communities, a financial one that has been proven in Bend, that is a burden, that is very difficult to carry,” Knight said.

City Manager Eric King said he’s working with the other city managers in the region to participate in the Oregon Transportation Forum, where a collection of agencies will be gearing up for the Oregon transportation package for 2017.

Knight said he was open to the strategic timing of the letter to ensure that it did not fall on “deaf ears.”

To conclude the city council meeting, Chudowsky said he’d like council to send a letter to Deschutes County regarding cannabis policy with the following points:

  • By state law, Marijuana is a crop and production of marijuana is a legitimate farm use.
  • As a state, we have protected agricultural lands for agricultural purposes reaching back into the 1960s and formalized those protections through the adoption of Statewide Planning Goal 3 in the 1970s.  Although Deschutes County’s land has had challenges with Goal 3, Marijuana appears to be a crop that is well suited to flourish on the EFU (Exclusive Farm Use) lands within the County.
  • Voters in Deschutes County approved Measure 91 with approximately 52 percent of voters in favor.
  • Deschutes County worked with the Marijuana Advisory Committee (MAC) to develop reasonable time, place and manner restrictions for marijuana businesses within unincorporated Deschutes County.  The proposed regulations provide clarity for the agricultural industry and protections to neighboring property owners.
  • There is pressure on industrial lands within the City of Bend’s urban growth boundary for marijuana production purposes.  Although there may be market demand for production space within industrial areas, the agricultural use should be permitted, as recommended by the MAC on agricultural lands within Deschutes County.
  • The recommended time, place and manner restrictions apply to no other farm crop – the industry is accommodating compatibility issues that aren’t protected within EFU for any other accepted farm use.  The County should adopt these regulations to permit marijuana businesses within unincorporated Deschutes County while it can and in doing so, will open up economic opportunities that benefit both rural and urban areas in the County.

What the Deschutes County Commissioners determine in terms of restrictions on cannabis could have implications for Bend, Chudowsky said.

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