3/25/2014 1:35:00 PM Commission nixes industrial land change
By John Griffith
Three Sisters Business Park developer Peter Hall failed to win a zone change on his land as the Sisters planning commission voted 6-0-1 to decline to rezone the Three Sisters Business Park from light industrial to low-density residential.
Commission chair Alan Holzman abstained, citing his conflicted feelings over the options.
Hall approached the commission in February with a request to rezone his seven-year-old industrial park development from light industrial to single-family residential. Hall pointed out that he had only received two offers in seven years on his industrial land.
Under the proposed zoning, the 16-acre light-industrial parcel would be combined with an existing 12 acres to the north that is already zoned residential to allow for the construction of 100 to 130 single-family homes at roughly five lots per acre.
At the February meeting of the planning commission, the primary concerns raised were the proximity of these potential family homes to an adjoining light-industrial area that included often noisy rock grading and log-home building operations. The availability of large blocks of light-industrial land was also discussed at that time.
Hall returned to the March 20 meeting with a plan that spoke directly to the commissioners' concerns. He had added a 100-foot buffer zone between the homes and the potential noise generators. He had also included a mini-storage area in that buffer to provide both sight and sound shielding for the homes.
But the concerns over the availability of "reasonable sized blocks" of light industrial land prevailed, as each of the commissioners in turn came around to the same conclusion: The land is more valuable to Sisters for potential light industry than it is as residential housing.
Despite the 100-foot buffer zone, several of the commissioners agreed with Phil Rerat of Swiss Mountain Log Homes when he worried that, "...100 feet of separation doesn't mean much when four chain saws light off at 7 a.m."
Local developer Curt Kallberg also spoke against the rezoning. His sentiments seemed to reflect the feeling of the commissioners.
Kallberg said, "Giving up light-industrial property - that is not what we should be doing. We only have so much of it.
"This is kind of a hard one," continued Kallberg, "I like Peter. He is a good guy. But I don't think what he is doing is a good idea. We don't need more residential lots. There are easily 600 to 700 approved residential sites ready to go in Sisters." (Kallberg is also a partner in one of those residential developments at McKenzie Meadows.)
"When this property was brought into the city it was because there was a need. How did we used to need it and now we don't need it? LCDC (the Land Conservation and Development Commission)says that for every acre that you give up you lose seven to eight jobs per acre," said Kallberg.
"I think you can sell anything if it is priced right. If you are in deep, and you have to get your money back, and you have to hold the price - that is not really the city's problem," concluded Kallberg.
Speaking against the proposal at the previous meeting, local developer Steve McGhehey raised his concern that most of the light-industrial acreage listed in the city's inventory was, as he characterized it, in "teeny pieces."
"We don't have anywhere where somebody could buy three or four lots and do something with 10,000 or 20,000 square feet," said McGhehey at that time.
In the March meeting, McGhehey complimented Hall on the creative rework of his proposal, but reinforced his concern about the need to keep larger blocks of light industrial lands for future growth.
As each commissioner voted in turn, they expressed their discomfort in denying Hall's request, but their concerns for potential noise conflicts, and the prospective need for good-sized industrial lots prevailed.