How many barbecues does the average Bend household host each year? Maybe three or four? And how about a birthday party, or another milestone, like an anniversary? One or two, perhaps? Seems reasonable that you might mark that many special events in a year's time.
Now imagine you want to hold those events in your condo building. Problem is, your building only allows you and all the rest of the condo residents to have just three of those type of gatherings per year, combined.
If it feels unjust, that's exactly how some local business owners are feeling right now. No fewer than two separate tenants at the Century Center want the right to continue holding occasional outdoor events outside their businesses, which currently require the approval of a Temporary Change of Occupancy permit. In 2017, all the tenants within the Century Center held seven special events. With that, those businesses already had more than double the number of events that would be allowed per location, under a proposed change to how the city handles TCOs. As outlined in Feb. 15's "Could TCOs Get KOed?," city staff has recommended allowing only three temporary events per year, per location—a number chosen because that's what Portland does.
Portland, for one, has far more options for both indoor and outdoor performance space, but that's not exactly the point. In a town as relatively small as Bend, it seems clear this is a proposal intended to target just one location, and to please a vocal, persistent group of neighbors.
Our recent story was a follow-up to August 2017's "Bringin' Down the Noise," profiling the perspective of neighbors concerned about excessive noise, as well as the perspectives of the people throwing concerts at Century Center. We mentioned how the City of Bend's mediation team found no substantiation to the noise complaints posed by a few residents of the River West neighborhood. During a Jan. 3 presentation to the Bend City Council, city staff admitted that of the complaints about noise made against the Century Center in 2017, 50 percent of them came from the same two people.
The Century Center—via Volcanic Theatre Pub—was issued just one noise citation in 2017, one in 2016 for a Bend Radio Group show, and one in 2015 for a Good Life Brewing event. With each of those citations being issued to separate businesses within the same "location," it leaves us wondering, why the sudden onset of this proposal?
While it's certainly not pleasant to live in a condo next to someone who's constantly holding parties, it is reasonable to expect that your neighbors are going to throw the occasional shin-dig. Heck, that shindig might even be adding some culture and life to the neighborhood, which can be a good thing—in moderation, of course. Likewise, the occasional concert or special event at the Century Center is not going to harm the character of the River West neighborhood, and can even add to it.
Because the site's owner does not want to turn it into a permanent venue, there's no threat that the site will become Lollapalooza every night. Under the current rules, the building official tasked with approving TCO permits for the Century Center—or any other location—can simply use their best judgement in determining whether more than seven special events (the number held at Century Center last year) is getting excessive, instead of slapping an arbitrary number on each location. In the case of the Century Center, the fact that multiple businesses could ostensibly be limited not only by an arbitrary number, but also by the fact that they have neighbors who might want to use the same space, is absurd. While we maintain that neighbors close to the Century Center have been overly vocal, we give them kudos for making this suggestion, via the Bend Neighborhood Coalition website: "If the Council prefers a higher limit, we suggest two per business and five per property." While still an arbitrary number, it signals that they, too, can see the limits set upon a single "location" might be unfair—especially when, according to the Century Center website, 13 businesses occupy the same location.
We believe the current system of applying for a Temporary Change in Occupancy permit (developed and approved just two years ago) and asking a real live human to decide whether that TCO should be granted is a system that works, and works without some random magic number attached.
The Bend City Council will hear from the public about this proposed change at its meeting Feb. 21. With any luck, the Council will see this proposed change as the colossal waste of time that it is. If you're reading this either before or after that date, be sure to voice your opinion on the matter at either the meeting itself, or by sending the council an email afterward.