|1/20/2009 11:37:00 AM|
New Sisters Village Hotel wins approval
It will take a couple of years to finalize plans and build, but Sisters should have a new landmark hotel sometime after 2010.
|Celia Hung plans to heavily landscape her New Sisters Village Hotel. photo by Kathryn Godsiff
|Hotel developer focuses on natural beauty|
|Celia Hung breathed a sigh of relief after the Sisters Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, January 8. The commissioners unanimously gave the go-ahead to the New Sisters Village Hotel. Hung is the owner and developer of the property.|
"I'm very pleased and I'm very appreciative that it was a unanimous decision," she said. "And I would like to say that I'm thankful for all the constructive criticism. The planning staff and commission truly did their job."
Hung had made her mark already in the Sisters area with the major overhaul of the KOA Campground east of town. That project got fast-tracked last summer as the rodeo approached, and was completed on time for the event.
"Sisters is very dear to me, and I have a track record of using local contractors, labor and services," she said. "I care, and love this town and am proud to be part of it."
Hung is a businesswoman and developer with a deep passion for what she does and how it is accomplished. She was born in Taiwan, raised in Singapore and went to school in Toronto. After many years in Southern California, she came to Oregon in 1998, landing first on the coast at Oceanside and then heading inland.
She owns a home in a secluded spot at Oceanside and has a business office in Portland. These days, Hung spends most of her time in Central Oregon and maintains a home in Bend.
She is a petite woman, soft-spoken and confessing to shyness. Her gaze is direct and her handshake firm. She is decisive about her projects, particularly the parts that the public sees.
"Landscaping is my passion," she said. "It's not good enough to just have a building. It's what's around it that's important."
When asked about her plans for the hotel, particularly during the winter, Hung's answer contained both the practical and philosophical.
"In the business world, there is no guarantee," she said.
The original developers of Pine Meadow Village had a vision to share the special viewscape that encompasses that part of Sisters. Hung sees that as a thoughtful plan, and she endorses it fully.
"I feel fortunate to be able to complete the vision," she said.
The completed facility will accommodate a small conference center with everything on-site. Her time in Toronto gave her an understanding of a wintertime economy and she sees beyond the activity-based reasons that bring many people to snow country.
"I come for the natural beauty. I may not do anything with it, but I draw it in and get peace from it," she said.
Hung feels that many visitors share that philosophy, and the hotel's placement allows for the full impact of that beauty just out the window. The landscaping plan calls for a much larger percentage of plantings than is normally done around a hotel. Hung, who calls herself a tree nut, aims to oversee the landscaping, choosing trees and plants that are as mature as possible, to give the hotel area an established look from the start.
It will be some time before actual building takes place, however. It takes at least a year for engineering plans to be finalized and Hung doesn't plan to start construction until the economy begins to recover.
The New Sisters Village Hotel, which when fully developed will have 92 rooms, won unanimous approval from the Sisters Planning Commission last Thursday in a continuation of a hearing from earlier this month.
The approval was not without reservations, although all the commissioners who spoke at the hearing said they are in favor of the hotel.
"I'm not at all opposed to the hotel; in fact I'm quite supportive of it," said Charles Humphreys. "I think it's exactly what Sisters needs."
What bothered Humphreys and other commissioners is the building's height. It will stand 54 feet tall at the peak of the roof line, more than 20 feet taller than any other building in Sisters.
That's because the land was annexed in 1998 under Deschutes County Code provisions that allow much taller buildings than the 35-foot height restriction in Sisters' code.
Commissioners hammered at the height concern for nearly two hours. Humphreys asked whether the third story of the hotel could be integrated into the roof line to reduce the height.
Architect Joe Van Lom said, "we looked at that... but it didn't do much; it was a foot or two at the most. We can drop it down, but we can't drop it down very much."
Commissioner Alan Holzman noted that the fact that the county code allows taller buildings, doesn't require the developer to build to the maximum height.
But the team representing applicant Celia Hung ultimately let the commission know that they had done all they were going to do to accommodate height concerns, that they were running into statutory and logistical deadlines that make further kicking around of design concepts impossible.
"Redesigning the whole roof concept is a major project that we can't do," said Thor Tingey of the law firm Ball Janick. "I'm sorry about that, but it's something we can't do."
Commissioner Ed Protas argued that the plain language of the law made the decision self-evident.
"When the city annexed this property, it came with certain baggage," he said. Protas said it would be "unconscionable" to try to hold the applicant to a different standard than what was laid out in the code.
Commissioner Dominic Debari said, "I believe they've made their case. This (the height of the hotel) is something different. Sisters must swallow it. Ultimately, the positives outweigh the negatives."
Debari also thanked Hung for being willing to make such an investment in the Sisters community.
The applicant did respond to public comment to remove an amphitheater that had raised concerns from the neighbors about noise and activity. They also moved a dumpster location and made assurances about restricting fire lane traffic to emergency vehicles only.
The hotel is sited across from Les Schwab Taylor Tire Center on Hood Avenue. The hotel developers propose to build in two phases, with Phase 1 having 57 rooms, a swimming pool, spa, lobby and administrative services. Phase 2 will have an additional 35 suites. Extensive landscaping is also proposed.
The hotel design is based on Sisters' 1880s theme, with some of the features inspired by the old Pilot Butte Inn in Bend, which was actually constructed in 1917.
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009
Article comment by:
My initial impression was correct, you are indeed a fascinating lady.
Hope to see you soon,
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