OR House Democrats hail 9% increase for public schools – Republicans complain “It’s not enough”

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Apr 012015
Commons Graphic

Commons Graphic

In an ironic flipping of rhetoric about public education, Oregon House democrats are hailing a 9% budget increase for public school in the upcoming fiscal year. But the minority republicans are complaining the increase is not near enough.

The story is in the Oregonian. Click here.

Bend City Council heading down home stretch on vacation home rentals?

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Mar 312015
Bend City Council Meeting at the County HQ

Bend City Council
Meeting at the County Administration Building

An over six hour public hearing on what to do about Vacation Rentals in Bend ground slowly along Monday evening as the Bend City Council tried to get new regulations in place to reduce the number of vacation rentals shoe-horned into normal single-family residential areas.

Hour after hour, sometimes disgruntled, at other times angry homeowners decried the explosion of noisy, and at times insufferable vacation home rentals in their neighborhoods. One said they’re destroying Bend’s liveability for long term residents just so that a few, and often out-of-town owners, can “rent-and-grow-rich.” Some homeowners also pointed to Bend’s extremely tight, some claim 0%, rental vacancy rate, which is forcing rents higher and higher for what little there is still available. It’s making it nearly impossible for Bend’s working class to even live here, they say. And tieing up so many homes as vacation rentals is only making it worse.

Packed County Commission Chambers

Packed County Commission Chambers

Others criticized the city council – at least those on the council before the last election – for not enacting a vacation rental moratorium until city government could begin to get a handle on what many believe is a city-wide housing crisis.

Local attorney Karen Johnson claimed that the economic benefits of vacation home rentals is not verified by any evidence. She told the council there are plenty of hotels, motels and bed and breakfast operations to handle the number of visitors to the area. She said by allowing commercial intrusions into otherwise stable and satisfying Bend neighborhoods, the council is inflicting unjustifiable stress on those neighborhoods. She suggested the council revoke all existing vacation home permits and go to court to make them stick if they have to. She and others said throughout the hearing that since the city council made the mess – the city council has a duty to clean it up.

A number of vacation home rental owners, as well as VHR rental brokers admitted there are problems with some vacation rentals but it should not trigger unfair punishment on those who manage well-run operations. An attorney representing local real estate companies contended that neighborhood notification for any new VHR proposed in any neighborhood is too burdensome. He also criticized any idea that a VHR permit should evaporate for the owner, as well as on the property, at the end of a permit period. He said all permits should be applied to the land the VHR sits on. Others criticized such an arrangement as forever preventing the lowering of VHR crowding. Nothing would change, they claim.

Mayor Jim Clinton  Trying to keep the issues focused on progress.

Mayor Jim Clinton
Trying to keep the issues focused on progress.

Eventually Mayor Jim Clinton closed the hearing and asked the council for a way forward on the issue.

It was pretty clear that the recent rapid rise in the number of vacation rentals within traditional neighborhoods, and their soaking up what would otherwise be part of the regular long-term rental market, is, in fact, a huge problem.

Doug Knight Bend City Councilor Wants a "solution" - not a long term "band-aid."

Doug Knight
Bend City Councilor
Wants a “solution” – not a long term “band-aid.”

Councilor Doug Knight took a strong stance in favor of fixing it over a period of a few years rather than waiting ten years or more to produce any meaningful relief for many Bend families. Knight’s vision of such a process would include creating a VHR lottery every year for renewal of VHR licenses and permits. Those properties that didn’t get a winning number could be given an extension of their VHR license for up to a few years. That is, if the property value of the home was adversely affected.

If it was affected and verified through professional appraisals – one completed by the owner, the other by the city – the amount of the drop would be compensated for by allowing the VHR to remain in operation over a period of time during which the loss would be recovered.

However, Councilor Knight’s plan was determined to be of such magnitude that it should be sent to the city planning commission for review first. And that process, including getting it back before the council, could take a while.

In the meantime the council debated a number of other ideas that city planning staff could analyze for a couple of days and report them back to the council on Wednesday, April 1st. Those ideas include:

* Whether VHR density concentrations in any neighborhood should be limited to allowing VHRs within 250 feet of an established VHR or within 400 feet of an established VHR. Or whether others could be allowed within those areas as long as they don’t violate a 5% or 7.5% concentration.
* That expiring VHR permits and licenses are non-transferrable. They don’t go with the owner or the land. They run only for length of the permit and can be extended only through a formal renewal application by the owner.
* The impact of eliminating what’s called the expedited 30 day VHR license which can be awarded only if the home is operated like a VHR for only 30 days a year.
* Whether an MR Zone should require a Type II License – requiring a notice of the application to a large portion of residents in the surrounding neighborhood.
* Whether there should be an incentive to use a home as a traditional long term rental while NOT LOSING its short term, 30 day VHR status.
* And…whether street parking should not be allowed to fulfill part of a VHR’s parking requirement.

All this comes back to the city council Wednesday, April 1st, 7pm at City Hall. Although the public hearing on the matter is officially closed, further written comments from the public are allowed to be entered into the public record as long as they’re delivered to city hall by noon on Wednesday, April 1st. Take them to the City Manager’s Office at the top of the stairs on the west side of the building.

Crook County Sheriff asking public’s help in locating missing woman.

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Mar 312015
Shauna Fowler, Missing

Shauna Fowler, Missing

On March 27th the Crook County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a missing person in the Powell Butte area. The investigation revealed that Shauna Fowler, who is a 27 year old female, had been missing since approximately 10pm on March 26th. It appears Shauna has left some of her personal belongings behind. If anyone has seen or heard from Shauna please call the Crook County Sheriff’s Office at (541) 447-6398.

The Sheriff’s Office will release more details as they become available.

Parched winter means water scarcity this summer

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Mar 312015
Tough water summer coming up for many...

Tough water summer coming up for many…

Experts and tools to help you save water and money

Bend City Hall is encouraging all residents to use water efficiently as they begin to start up their irrigation systems in preparation for the growing season. The City is offering several resources to help residents reduce or eliminate water waste that often results from overwatering, broken or misaligned sprinklers, and persistent leaks.

WaterWise Speakers Series
The first-annual WaterWise Speakers series will be held on April 11 at Central Oregon Community College from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Join us as three Central Oregon horticulture experts present their views on water resources stewardship through proper soil management, irrigation and design. This inaugural event is free to the public but registration is required. For more information, visit waterwisetips.org or click here.

WaterWise Informational Booth at City Hall.
The WaterWise informational booth, located at Bend City Hall, 710 NW Wall Street, offers free indoor and outdoor water conservation information including irrigation gauges to help residents understand how much water their irrigation system distributes. Supplies are limited.

Bend WaterSmart Gardening Interactive Website
The WaterSmart Gardening website link, located at waterwisetips.org (click here) offers visitors an interactive tool that contains hundreds of examples of area landscapes, virtual landscape tours and detailed information on low water Central Oregon landscape plants. It can save you time and money.

For additional information, please visit the City of Bend’s water conservation page at waterwisetips.org, or contact us at conservation@bendoregon.gov or just click here.

Terrebonne: House fire at 1150 Newell

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Mar 292015

9:30pm- House fire at 1150 Newell at south end of Terrebonne. Fire crews pulled up to see smoke coming from under the home. Sounds like they’re going to get whatever it is fast and furious.

10:16pm- Firefighters having a hard time figuring out what was burning and why.

10:51pm- Firefighters have been stymied trying to figure out the source of a fire that was big enough at one point to put out a lot of smoke from under the home. Fire command is ordering the homes electricity turned off and for the family to post a fire watch and for them to call an electrician in the morning to do a meticulous analysis of the dwelling’s wiring.

Terrebonne: Traffic crash – 43rd and Lower Bridge Road

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Mar 292015

2:48pm- Report of a motor vehicle crash at the intersection of Lower Bridge Road and NW 43rd, northwest of Terrebonne. One vehicle occupant complaining of neck pain.

3:00pm- A white vehicle is on its top. The other vehicle is down the road a bit. Checking on white vehicle driver for injuries.

3:13pm- Female driver may need transporting to the hospital.

Huge Data Center boom likely when Governor Brown signs “The Bill”

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Mar 292015

A package of tax breaks for high tech data processing companies that passed the Oregon Legislature last week will become law very quickly with the signature of Gov. Kate Brown. It will end years of legal disputes and corporate haggling with state officials over the unusual way Oregon taxes such properties.

Once Governor Brown signs Senate Bill 611, it could trigger a new building boom among big data center operators in Prineville and Murrow County.

With the tax issue settled, Amazon has said it may build as many as 11 new data centers in Morrow County, potentially creating hundreds of new jobs in a small corner of northeastern Oregon. And Apple could continue their expansion plans at their facility in Prineville.

Here’s more on the story from The Oregonian. Click here.

Mistaken identity gets basement full of diesel oil – home being demolished

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Mar 292015

A family in Pendleton had neither ordered diesel fuel for their furnace nor had the capacity to burn it, but they got it anyway – right through a basement window – 150 gallons worth.

The result: They’re tearing down the three story house and getting a new one from their insurance company. The story is in the East Oregonian: Click here.

Fatal accident on Highway 58 near Oakridge – DUI drugs.

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Mar 282015

Older Honda that crossed over into oncoming lane.

Older Honda that crossed over into oncoming lane.

Honda that was hit head on - elderly wife killed, husband seriously injured.

Honda that was hit head on – elderly wife killed, husband seriously injured.

Click photos to enlarge

Oregon State Police Troopers responded Saturday morning to a fatal crash on Highway 58 six miles east of Oakridge. Troopers report that a gold Honda Accord was traveling westbound, and for unknown reasons, crossed over into the eastbound lane. It instantly collided with a white Honda Accord. After impact the gold Honda careened off the highway, coming to rest against some trees.

The white Honda, which remained on the pavement, was driven by 73 year old Charles Kuykendall who was accompanied by his spouse, 74 year old Patricia Kuykendall – both from Gig Harbor, WA. Mrs. Kuykendall was pronounced deceased at the scene. Mr. Kuykendall was transported to the Peacehealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield with minor injuries.

The gold Honda was driven by 36 year old Billroy Durham and was accompanied by his wife, 38 year old Tuesday Durham, both from Phoenix, AZ. Mrs. Durham was transported by Lifeflight a trauma center in Springfield. Mr. Durham was transported to the same facility by ground ambulance

Charles and Patricia Kuykendall were restrained with seatbelts while the Durhams were not wearing seatbelts. Airbags deployed in both vehicles.

Troopers say Mr. Durham is being treated for his injuries; however as a result of the investigation he is expected to be charged with Manslaughter, three counts of Assault, Reckless Driving, and driving under the influence of drugs.

Cougar shot dead near the top of Pilot Butte in East Bend

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Mar 282015
Cougar (Mountain Lion)  Wikipedia archive photo

Cougar (Mountain Lion)
Wikipedia archive photo

Bend Police killed a large male cougar near the top of Pilot Butte Saturday evening. Officers say it was lying on the ground about 50 feet above a paved hiking trail near the water towers – posing a danger to numerous unsuspecting hikers walking through the area.

Once hikers were evacuated the cougar was shot and killed.

Police say they normally use tranquilizer guns on large dogs that pose a danger. But they decided to use lethal force on the cougar because a tranquilizer dart can take up to 15 minutes to take effect – which can cause a highly agitated cougar to become even more of a danger to officers and pedestrians, including local homes and businesses right off Highway 20.

Officers say they realize the concerns citizens have with shooting and killing any wildlife but under the circumstances, with nightfall darkening the area, they had little choice.

Pilot Butte Middle school lies at the base of Pilot Butte just to the north and Juniper Elementary School just to the west.

Officers say 

their primary objective is always to provide a high level of safety for the community.

It was the second cougar encounter in the Bend area over the last couple of months. It was in late January that a young male cougar was spotted high in a tree in a residential area in southeast Bend. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agents shot the cougar with a tranquilizer dart. It soon fell out of the tree and was later euthanized.

ODFW agents say once a cougar becomes accustomed to being in an urban setting, simply taking it out and releasing it back into the wild carries with it a high likelihood that it’ll either return to where it was captured, or infiltrate another community.