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News in Briefs: Politics, Public Lands and Playhouses 

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Innovation Theatre to Open Bend Playhouse

With the fate of 2nd Street Theater still up in the air (although there are rumors of a potential buyer for the location,) there's some good news to be had in the local theater world with the announcement last week that Innovation Theatre Works will be opening a theater facility.

Most know Innovation for their productions of Driving Miss Daisy and the Frank Sinatra tribute My Way, both of which were performed at the Tower Theatre.

Located on the south end of town near the intersection of Reed Market and Division Street (just east of Highway 97), the facility will include a performance space that can seat 175-190 people, a lobby, dressing rooms and offices.

Innovation plans for the space to be more than a place for local theatrical presentations, expecting to hold sketch comedy performances, open mics and other events. This is in addition to the educational programs Innovation hopes to bring to their new spot.


Ex-Chamber Pres Drops out of Council Race

Former Bend Chamber President Mike Schmidt announced that he's dropping out of this year's Bend City Council race just a few weeks after announcing his candidacy.

Schmidt, who came to Bend from California to replace controversial ex-Chamber President Gary Peters, charted a new, more progressive direction for the chamber before splitting ways with the Bend business group. Since then Schmidt has taken up the mantle of a number of progressive causes, including public transit funding and disabled access, while running his own consulting firm. As a left-leaning moderate with a strong pro-business background and extensive community ties, Schmidt was expected to run a competitive campaign in a race that could have had far reaching implications for the currently right-leaning city council.

Schmidt said in a press release that he is dropping out of the race in order to allow his wife to take a new position that he described as her "dream job" in Santa Cruz, where the couple will be relocating. Schmidt's announcement opens up the race for seat number seven, currently held by Oran Teater who is not expected to campaign again. One potential candidate for the seat is Downtown Bend Business Association President Chuck Arnold who has broached the idea of pursuing the job, but has yet to formally announce.

New Gilchrist Forest Could Bode Well For Skyline

The State of Oregon is the proud new owner of 43,000 acres of timberland around Gilchrist, i.e. the little mill town that you pass through on the way to Klamath Falls.

The state of Oregon announced last week that it had struck a deal with the landowner, Fidelity National Timber Resources, to purchase the second-generation timberlands for $15 million in hopes of forestalling future development and fragmentation of the forest. The state plans to finance the deal using proceeds from the Oregon State Lottery.

The purchase could bode well for the Skyline Forest deal in Bend, which involves some of the same players and financing mechanisms involved in the Gilchrist purchase. Fidelity acquired the Gilchrist tract at the same time that it purchased the Skyline lands, both of which were the property of Crown Pacific before the company spiraled into bankruptcy, allowing investors like Fidelity to scoop up large swaths of the one-time timber behemoth' holdings.

Fidelity, whose founder William P. Foley made his fortune in the mortgage title business, has eyed Central Oregon as a prime location for second home resorts and has already received preliminary approval for its planned Crescent Creek Resort, comprising some 2,000 homes and a pair of golf courses spread over 5,000 acres adjacent to the forest. It has similar plans outside Bend on the Skyline Forest where a compromise proposal with environmentalists was given the green light by Salem last session.

The deal would allow Fidelity to build several hundred homes but no golf course on Skyline Forest, one of the dominate features on the horizon west of Bend where the tree covered slopes stretch toward Sisters. In exchange, Fidelity would sell the bulk of the 33,000-acre former tree farm to the Deschutes Basin Land Trust, which would manage the lands for timber harvest, recreation and education. Fidelity isn't expected to move forward on the deal until the real estate market recovers and the demand for resort homes comes out of the doldrums. Still, the Gilchrist deal is a positive sign for Skyline, said the Land Trust's Executive Director Brad Chalfant, because Fidelity had been clear that it wanted to deal with the surplus property at Gilchrist before it moves on Skyline.

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