Bend has long maintained that high property values of their pet development would offset massive costs for infrastructure, but that myth has now imploded along with everything else at Juniper Ridge. Property values for bare land have plummeted to levels not seen in Central Oregon since 1995.
How will the city repay their massive pile of debt at Juniper Ridge with property that is virtually worthless?
The city's track record with this project is atrocious, and most citizens do not believe that Bend should be in the development business in the first place. They can't even run a city properly, let alone something of this magnitude where they have absolutely no expertise. It has been widely reported that taxpayers lose big time whenever Bend attempts to dabble in real estate, and Juniper Ridge exemplifies this knack for ineptitude.
The city has relocated just two corporations (Les Schwab and Suterra) at JR in 10 years for no benefit to anyone but their respective balance sheets. Twenty acres of our land is now gone forever, and the city has consumed far more taxpayer resources than they recovered from land sales.
In 2007, the city commissioned yet another worthless consultant, Seattle-based Econ NW, to perform fiscal projections at JR following seven years without any benchmarks or standards of performance whatsoever!
Econ NW then projected revenues at JR of $120 million by the first quarter of 2012. The city immediately trashed the study after realizing that they will miss that target by an unbelievable 90 percent.
Now, even though Bend projects a budget shortfall approaching $30 million for the next planning period, they continue to squander hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants for nebulous tasks like overlays and CC&R's that don't bring any dollars to the bottom line at JR.
While the city's myopic strategy at JR has failed miserably, the reasons that Bend cannot raise tens of millions (without more debt) for road improvements is simple: They cannot sell property for anything close to the cost of basic infrastructure, so there is only negative cash flow.
Yet they continue to pursue costly diversions like an agreement with ODOT for 700 more daily trips to serve prospective tenants who don't even exist! This proposed agreement, which ODOT intends to execute before the end of the year, constitutes another terrible error as nothing has been done in 10 years to effect a traffic fix at Cooley Road and Hwy. 97, and it will take years before construction could possibly start.
ODOT should have protected us from Bend as the Department of Land Conservation and Development did with its denial of the UGB expansion plan; instead, they got the deal exactly backwards!
Bend should have been required to execute a profitable sale to a reputable buyer (which they have not done yet) with an excess of $3 million placed in escrow with ODOT to fund future traffic improvements.
Bend is far more concerned with creating an illusion that something positive has finally transpired at JR than they are with addressing the reality that this pet project has been comatose for years with no possibility of solvency.
While we worry about Obama leading the federal government into bankruptcy, the city of Bend plans to issue even more tax increment bonds at JR to make certain that our own hometown follows suit.
It's far past time for a 10-year moratorium on the unmitigated and unprecedented disaster that Bend has created at Juniper Ridge. We now know what happens when the fox owns the henhouse in combination with a blank check to create debt and the ability to freely violate rules and laws that apply to everyone else.
- Scott Siewert
Editor's Note: Scott Siewert is a semi-retired Human Resource Executive who lives in Bend and has led opposition to the city's project at Juniper Ridge for many years.