New Sisters Village Hotel wins approval
Last updated 1/20/2009 at Noon
It will take a couple of years to finalize plans and build, but Sisters should have a new landmark hotel sometime after 2010.
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.