By Jason Boone

Ground has been broken on a 50-home development in Northwest Bend after about a year and a half of contention.

The Tree Farm development is west of Miller Elementary School and north of Northwest Skyliners Road. Encompassing 533 acres, the development will remain mostly open space.

The developers plan 50 2-acre homesites. They will be grouped primarily on the northern portion of the development, a little more than a quarter mile north of Skyliners Road.

The remainder of the area will remain “as pristine as it is now,” the development’s webpage says.

Central Oregon LandWatch had planned to appeal Deschutes County’s approval of Tree Farm to the State Land Use Board of Appeals. Among the bases of the appeal, according to The (Bend) Bulletin newspaper, was wildfire danger.  An agreement to drop the appeal to the state was reached in the winter.

“It’s really important that the open space stay as open space, and they recommitted to that,” Paul Dewey, Central Oregon LandWatch’s executive director, told The Bulletin.

The land has been owned by the Miller family (owners of Miller Lumber Company on Northeast Greenwood Avenue in Bend) for more than 60 years. Tree Farm developers filed conditional use permits for the development with Deschutes County in August 2014. But in March 2015, the proposal was denied by a hearings officer, desiring more details on addressing wildfire risk and the threat to wildlife.

Six months later, the three-person Deschutes County commission approved the proposal after developers provided more information about the subdivision.

According to a news release issued by Tree Farm LLC, West Bend Property Company II (one of the business entities that united to form Tree Farm LLC) hopes to obtain land east of the Tree Farm and west of Summit High School for denser development. The release indicates that should this land be brought into Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary, West Bend Property Company II envisions a development similar to NorthWest Crossing.

Such a development could add 750 to 800 housing units, a Tree Farm LLC principal said in November 2014. The existing Northwest Crossing encompasses a potential for 1,300 housing units (including single-family homes, apartments and townhomes).

Tree Farm developers tout the natural-state aspect of their proposal as one of its selling points. Moreover, access to Shevlin Park by nonmotorized traffic will be increased with the proposal’s plans to provide trails from the Tree Farm to the park. The western edge of the development, which generally runs along a southwest-to-northeast axis, is adjacent to Shevlin Park.