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home : current news : current news April 29, 2016

5/20/2014 1:16:00 PM
Planning commission takes another look at zoning change
By John Griffith

Developer Peter Hall's request to rezone his Three Sisters Business Park (TSBP) to single-family residential was the subject of a planning commission workshop Thursday, May 15.

This is the third time the planning commission has looked at the matter. Both the original request and a revised proposal resulted in the commission's recommendation to the Sisters City Council to deny the requested changes.

After hearing a significantly different staff presentation than heard by the planning commission, the City council appeared to be leaning toward overturning the planning commission's recommendation. Because of the significant additional data presented included in the council presentation, the council opted to remand the issue back to the planning commission for further review of the new data.

Thursday's meeting was a workshop, so no votes were taken. However, based on comments from the commissioners at the conclusion of the workshop, indications are that the proposal will once again receive a thumbs-down from the planning commission. The issue will receive a formal vote no later than July.

In the first two hearing before the commission, the primary objection appeared to be the incompatible location of single-family homes right next to light-industrial noise generators (log-home chain saws, construction-company rock grinders, etc). The testimony at the time indicated a concern that "down the line" the residential owners would be petitioning the City to regulate the noise coming from the industrial areas.

On Thursday, former City councilor Pat Thompson said, "I own property in the adjacent industrial park, make my living in the adjacent industrial park, and I'm there every day, day-in and day-out. I have a few concerns. The way the master plan was originally developed on this property in question there was a nice transition from the light-industrial park into the residential on the north end of it.

"Everything was looked at, traffic counts, water, sewer, everything. I don't think that if this master plan had been brought in with the amount of residential that's being talked about today that it would have been approved. There is not a transition there. There has to be a very sizable buffer. ... the light-industrial park that is already there, it has already been paying taxes, that has already been in existence for many years."

He continued, "My fear is that not this week, not next week, not next month, but 10 years from now, when the set of players is totally different, that residential is going to outnumber the industrial owners and somebody is not going to like Phil starting his chainsaw, Rod scooping some dirt, or me working on heavy equipment. There are going to be problems.

"Originally it was very well thought-out, it was very well engineered and it was scrutinized. It wasn't an easy process to bring it in the first time. To change it now, I think you would have to relook at the whole master plan," concluded Thompson.

In each of the several presentations before the council and the commission, the available inventory of single-family home-building lots and the inventory of light-industrial land has been an issue, with the City staff numbers challenged and questioned by citizens' testimony.

In her staff presentation to the commission, Community Development Director Pauline Hardie said, "I want to make it very clear, we are not removing light-industrial land. It is a completely different zoning district. TSBP has a lot of similarities to the downtown commercial zone. It has some similarities to the light-industrial zone, but not as many as I originally thought."

Hardie explained an updated sheet of residential lot inventory that was used in the council presentation but was not available to the earlier commission meetings. The conclusion of the analysis, based on the recent eight months data, was that Sisters has a 13-year supply of buildable single-family home lots based on a consumption rate of 4.75 building permits per month.

Commissioner Doug Roberts challenged Hardie's conclusion. He said, "If we subtract out Hayden Homes, as we know that Hayden Homes is the biggest developer in Sisters in quite some time, what would that drop that number (the 4.75) to? They do a wonderful job over there. But they are also pretty much sold out."

Hardie did not redo the calculations on the spot, but it would appear that the consumption rate without Hayden Homes would result in an inventory of over 20 years.

Roberts also addressed applicant Peter Hall. Roberts said, "I have to ask this question. It is just driving me crazy. You have indicated that you have not been able to sell this property, yet according to the MLS, is it true that in January of this year you raised the price from $4,000,010 to 5,585,000?"

Hall responded, "I don't know. They are inactive (lots). I would like to get a different outcome than we have. There is asking price and there is contract price."

Hall went on to point out that he had invested over $1 million into infrastructure (water, sewer, etc.) in the development based on the lots original listing at $9 per square foot. He indicated that recently he had entertained two offers in the $2.50-per-square-foot range, but neither one could close.

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