Bend issues COVID-19 health-safety requirements for lodging operators

Rules include 24-hour wait between bookings if COVID-19 suspected; councilors also proceeding with Nov. transportation bond, give initial OK to Core Area tax increment financing plan

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BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — After issuing an administrative order discouraging travel to Bend through Labor Day, the city late Wednesday issued new operating regulations for short-term rentals and lodging properties, since Bend continues to be a destination for tourism and vacation travel.

According to a city news release, key elements in the new regulations, which remain in effect until the city enters Phase 3 of the statewide reopening phased plan, include:

  • A 24-hour waiting between bookings whenever a guest has known or suspected COVID-19, for safety of housekeeping personnel and next guests
  • Pre-check-in communication with guests regarding COVID-19 health guidelines and community concerns
  • Adherence to and support for Oregon Health Authority mask and distancing guidelines, including limiting group sizes
  • Rigorous sanitation plans and protections for housekeeping staff

 “A lot of operators are already doing these things,” said City Manager Eric King. “This just raises the bar for everyone.”

Prior to finalizing the lodging operations regulations that went before city councilors Wednesday night for review, city staff worked with Deschutes County Public Health experts and representatives of Bend’s hotel and short-term rental industries who manage approximately 800 hotel room and 50 short-term rentals, a significant share of Bend’s 3,128 hotel and motel rooms and 991 short-term rentals.

“Like everyone else in our community, these operators expressed concerns about ensuring their facilities are sanitary, compliant with Oregon Health Authority guidelines, and that they have adequate plans in place to protect staff and guests should a confirmed COVID-19 infection occur in one of their facilities,” said city Business Advocate Ben Hemson.

“Generally, lodging facilities seem very open to increased sanitation plans and communication about public health best practices.”

“We need help from the lodging industry,” said Councilor Barb Campbell. “Their customers need to understand that the virus is here, too. Visitors, locals — all of us need to wear our masks and physically distance from others.”

The governor has required masks for customers, employees and visitors age 5 and older when indoors, and outdoors when six-foot physical distancing is not possible. The city has issued an order to make these rules enforceable through the city’s police or code enforcement processes.

City’s $190 million transportation bond measure moving toward ballot

During a lengthy meeting, again conducted by teleconference, councilors also voted 5-2 to have the city manager draft the language of a November ballot measure for a $190 million transportation bond, pulled off the May ballot when COVID-19 hit.

Councilors Bill Moseley and Justin Livingston voted no, saying that while it’s a good package of needed projects, it’d be better to wait and see how the economy and area is doing in a vote next May than to risk a major defeat at the polls.

Another factor was the Deschutes Public Library Board’s recent vote to send a $195 million expansion measure, including a new Central Library, to the November ballot.

City Councilor Genna Goodman-Campbell said she is sensitive to the economic hardships so many are facing. “At the same time, we are still a fast-growing community with some really serious needs” around transportation safety and connectivity.

There was discussion about waiting until 2022 to levy the bonds, or begin with less-expensive projects, if the COVID-19 economic impacts continue into the coming year.

Bend Chamber CEO Katy Brooks, one of three speakers from the GO BEND 2020 Coalition backing the measure, said a higher November election turnout will bring great participation in the discussion.

“I don’t think much is going to change between now and May,” Brooks said. “I also think people are ready for this to move forward.”

Core Area Tax Increment Finance Plan advances

Meanwhile, city councilors also voted 6-1 Wednesday night to to give preliminary approval to the Core Area Tax Increment Finance Plan and establish the Core Area Tax Increment Finance Area.

Councilor Bill Moseley was the lone no vote on the plan, which identifies up to $195 million in tax increment financing for projects that support the development and redevelopment of the 637-acre Core Area over a 30-year period. Final approval is scheduled for August 19.

Here’s the rest of the background, in a news release from the city.

The Core Area primarily includes the Bend Central District, East Downtown, inner Highway 20/Greenwood, and KorPine opportunity areas from the 2016 Urban Grown Boundary expansion and Comprehensive Plan update, which identified the need for about 1,900 new housing units and about 1,700 new jobs to meet state-mandated housing and employment goals.

Revenue generated from tax increment financing (TIF) are to be invested in capital projects, such as:

  • Transportation, streetscape and utility infrastructure
  • Affordable housing assistance, partnership and support
  • Business assistance, partnership and support
  • Open space, facilities, amenities and wayfinding
  • Plan administration, implementation, reporting and support

A list of identified projects with descriptions are provided in the Core Area Tax Increment Finance Plan (Page 11).

Tax increment financing is not a new tax on property and does not increase the amount a property owner pays in property taxes; it is a financing mechanism used throughout Oregon to  implement city plans in designated areas.

Tax increment financing make investments that spur private development that would otherwise not have occurred. Revenue for a tax increment financing plan is generated by the growth in assessed property value from new development and/or redevelopment within the area. Property owners do not receive an increase in taxes from tax increment financing.

While the Core Area is an active tax increment financing area, other taxing jurisdictions’ revenue from that area remains largely fixed. The tax revenue from the increase in assessed values will go to the Bend Urban Renewal Agency to pay for projects that support investment, development, and/or redevelopment as outlined in the Core Area Tax Increment Finance Plan.

When the tax increment financing area expires, taxing jurisdictions can expect to receive additional tax revenue due to increases in assessed values supported by the investments made in the area.

By separate motion, councilors voted 4-3 to recommend the Bend Urban Renewal Agency consider an “under-levy” for the 2021/2022 fiscal year; which would redirect the potential tax increment revenue generated by the Core Area Tax Increment Finance Plan back to the affected taxing districts. 

Councilors Bruce Abernethy, Justin Livingston, Chris Piper and Bill Moseley voted in favor and Mayor Sally Russell and councilors Barb Campbell and Genna Goodman-Campbell opposed. Councilors also serve as the BURA Board.

This action would ensure that over the next 24 months, the Core Area Tax Increment Finance Plan does not impose a financial impact on the affected taxing districts’ annual budgets.

The Core Area Tax Increment Plan was developed over a 14-month public planning process that included input from the Urban Renewal Advisory Board, taxing districts, property and business owners, public agency partners and community members. The process also included five pop-up outreach events in the Core Area, two open houses and two online surveys.

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