News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Plan will shape future growth

Sisters is growing and changing rapidly. Those who want to shape what growth and change look like over the next decades will have a significant opportunity as the City of Sisters updates its comprehensive plan.

The City has contracted for up to $95,000 with Angelo Planning Group, Inc. out of Portland for technical assistance with the state-mandated comprehensive plan update. Work begins in earnest this fall.

“It’s the guiding legal document for the City in terms of growth and development,” said City Planner Nicole Mardell.

As required by the State of Oregon’s robust land-use-planning laws, the comprehensive plan covers transportation, water/wastewater infrastructure, an economic opportunity analysis; a natural resources inventory and a buildable lands inventory. Development can only occur within an Urban Growth Boundary.

The principles outlined in a comprehensive plan are enacted through the City’s Development Code.

The last full revision of the comprehensive plan took place in 2005.

“It’s been 15 years since we fully updated it,” said City Manager Cory Misley. And in those 15 years, the city has almost tripled in size.”

While they are required to have certain content in the plan — including technical content that necessitates help for the outside consultant — cities have the opportunity to shape the plan to fit their character and needs. Things like wildfire hazard mitigation can be included.

“Hillsboro, for instance, included a sustainability section,” Mardell offered.

The “visioning” process that the community undertook over the past several years established priorities.

“We can build on that to create the comp plan,” Misley said.

The City has latitude to set its own goals.

“The state doesn’t usually get involved in goals unless they go against a state land-use goal, there’s a conflict there,” Mardell explained.

The biggest question in this kind of long-range planning usually comes down to land inventory and how much is available to accommodate growth and development. The plan requires a buildable lands inventory to determine how much residential, commercial and industrial land is actually available.

“That’s an objective review of the conditions on the ground,” Misley said.

Mardell noted that, “A city is meant to have a 20-year supply of land within the UGB. It’s a pretty complicated process to identify that equation. There’s no fixed number, necessarily.”

That equation throws up questions that have to be articulated in goals.

“What sort of housing mix do we want?” Misley offered as an example.

And Sisters will have to grapple with the fact that we don’t have a lot of vacant land left inside the UGB.

Setting goals and determining the shape of future growth isn’t just the province of City staff, elected officials and consultants. Citizens will be asked to participate.

Several committees will be formed around various topics within the scope of the plan; the planning commission will hold several public hearings on various aspects of the plan; and there will be outreach events where the general public can weigh in on what they think of the goals as the plan is developed.

One of the first tasks of City staff is to develop a formal plan for public engagement. Those interested in participating in the process can let the city know now. Contact staff through the City’s web site at

“If you’re interested about growth in Sisters, this is the time to be involved in the process,” Mardell said.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


Reader Comments(0)