News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

New Sisters development can move forward

The road is cleared for development of a six-acre parcel of land located behind Bi-Mart at the west end of Sisters, though such development has raised concerns among local residents about the impact on Sisters’ character and quality of life.

With a unanimous vote of 5-0 following a public hearing last Thursday, the Sisters Planning Commission approved the 5.911-acre Master Planned Development (MPD) for the proposed Threewind project. Two commissioners were not in attendance.

The proposed development includes up to 28,000 square feet of commercial building area, up to 28,000 square feet of ground-floor multifamily building area, a public street, and associated site improvements. The application was for preliminary approval of these uses, which acts as a placeholder. More detailed review of the development will occur at the time of site-plan review when the actual elevations, placement, and floor plans will be submitted.

The MPD does not include the parcel containing the Dollar General store now under construction.

The project is located within the Highway Commercial Zone and is greater than five acres, requiring the MPD application and review. Subsequent site-plan review applications and approvals are required as a condition of approval of the Master Plan. All site-plan review applications must be submitted prior to the expiration of the Master Plan approval, which is three years from now.

Approval of the Master Plan now makes the property more marketable to developers who are interested in purchasing part or all of the MPD. The parcel can be divided up and sold to different parties, meaning it could be a phased development.

As a condition of the approval, Threewind Partners will record a deed restriction on the property and all future lots and parcels created, noting their inclusion in the approved MPD. That requires future developers to adhere to all the requirements and conditions of approval by the City and other public agencies.

Local architect Chris Mayes, working on behalf of the Threewinds Partners, has been working with City staff for two years. The application approved by the Planning Commission was the 14th version of the MPD.

According to Mayes, Threewind Partners LLC of Eugene has owned the property since the late 1980s. He pointed out that the MPD is considered an infill project in the city, avoiding the need to increase the Urban Growth Boundary and avoiding urban sprawl.

A neighborhood meeting was held by the applicant on January 21 at The Pines clubhouse, with about eight residents, to discuss the concept plan with the applicant and the owner’s team. Key issues discussed at that time included: building orientation to increase privacy for residents of The Pines subdivision; dark skies compliant lighting; parking; garbage and recycling access; and connections to existing city streets. After the meeting, Mayes provided a revised set of drawings reflecting public agencies and informal public comments.

Last Thursday for the public hearing, the Council chamber was full of residents from The Pines, the 55-plus development directly behind the MPD, and several residents from other parts of Sisters. Those not neighborhood residents raised broader concerns such as whether Sisters needs this development, why allow it, and asking why can’t the City put a moratorium on this type of development.

The City can’t institute a moratorium unless all the land zoned for this type of development is built out or the infrastructure can’t support the development. If the proposed development meets the City’s zoning, development code, and building codes, it will be approved.

“Once a property is zoned a certain way, we’re required to approve it with possible modifications,” said Community Development Director Patrick Davenport.

Another concern raised was that “Sisters is beginning to look more and more like California” and that “we should be paying more attention to the beauty of Sisters and the quality of life.”

Someone else asked what the actual vision for Sisters is regarding developments. She suggested that traffic routes and flow need to be improved before proceeding with more developments.

The Pines residents expressed concerns about traffic congestion both around and within the MPD, the accuracy of the traffic study, the proximity of the multifamily buildings to The Pines property lines, and where the children living in the apartments will be able to safely play.

The commissioners made changes to two of the 41 conditions of approval put forth by staff. One had to do with ODOT’s requirement to align the entrance into the MPD off of West Hood Avenue with the entrance into the east portal across Hood. Commissioners wanted to allow the developer to have more time to meet with ODOT to deal with the alignment issue during the site-plan review.

The second condition calls for construction of the full 24-foot wide through-street from McKinney Butte to Hood Avenue at one time. The applicant would like to be able to construct the vehicular and pedestrian routes in a phased manner to spread the cost out over a longer time period.

There were three possible outcomes after the hearing. The Planning Commission could either approve the MPD application as presented, it could be approved with conditions, or it could be denied on the basis of whether the applicable standards and criteria can be satisfied either as submitted, or as mitigated through conditions of approval.

Based on the information and findings contained in their report, staff concluded that the requested MPD satisfied the approval criteria and recommended that the Planning Commission vote to approve the request, with the 41 conditions, which the Commission agreed with.

The next step in the process is for staff to do a site-plan review, once the detailed drawings are submitted.


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