News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Woodlands wins zoning approval

Following a public hearing at last week’s meeting, City Council unanimously approved the application to rezone and redesignate the 35.84-acre property located at 201 N. Pine St., formerly owned by the U.S. Forest Service and zoned Public Facilities (27.53 acres), Urban Area Reserve (4.76 acres), and Open Space (3.55 acres).

The approval by Council came after the recommendation for approval, with conditions, from staff and from the Sisters Planning Commission. As part of the application were several edits, in support of the rezoning, to the existing Comprehensive Plan created in 2005.

The approved zoning changes now include Residential Multi-Family (25.06 acres), Light Industrial (4.96 acres), Landscape Management (3.85 acres), and Commercial (1.97 acres).

The approved changes are only the first step in the land-use review process for the property being developed by PX2 Investments LLC, owned by locals Paul Hodge and Paul Schneider in order to provide workforce housing for the employees of Laird SuperFoods and other Sisters businesses.

At this stage of the process, no development plans are provided. In the coming months there will be layers of subsequent plan review required. First comes the master plan for the entire property, then the subdivision application which spells out how each section within the Master Plan will be used. Next comes the actual site plan showing the placement and type of buildings and streets and which trees will remain. Only after each of those steps are reviewed, and possibly subject to public hearing, are building permits issued.

In approving the rezone application, certain applicable code criteria had to be met. The application had to prove compliance with statewide land-use goals and compliance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan goals and policies. Through a variety of professional studies, proof had to be shown of adequate infrastructure (water, sewer, transportation, parks) available or that can be built to serve the maximum anticipated level and density of uses allowed by the new zoning districts.

The final condition required to be met is evidence of change, mistake, or inconsistency that warrants the need for a change. With the Forest Service no longer using the entire parcel of land, and wishing to sell all but about 10 acres, the evidence of change was met.

The conditions of approval recommended by the City staff to both the Planning Commission and City Council must all be met by the applicant prior to the master plan application. A few of the 15 conditions put forth include the following:

• Prior to master-plan approval, the applicant shall submit preliminary plans for the use of 3.85-acre Open Space on the corner of Highway 20/West Barclay Drive to the City for review.

A payment of $38,785.05 shall be paid by the applicant as its proportionate share of improvements along Highway 20 and the parallel alternate route along Barclay Drive to support east-west mobility needs along the Highway 20 corridor.

• Prior to recording the initial land-division plat or issuance of the initial building permit, whichever occurs first, a fee of $72,972.97 is required to mitigate the impacts to sewer Pump Station #2, including wet well and emergency-backup generator upgrades.

The closure of City Hall to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic necessitates any testimony at public hearings be done via Zoom or through writing prior to the meeting. Comments received were about 2-1 in support of the development, with many mentioning the current lack of affordable housing for young families negatively impacting local businesses in attracting employees to Sisters.

Other positives include the development is supported by many of the strategies set forward in the Sisters Vision. The property is located within the Sisters Urban Growth Boundary, so it is making use of land already within the city. The proposed development will draw more involved young members into the community while balancing growth with the things about this community that we all love. It is being developed by locals who live here and care about the community.

On the other side of the coin, those opposing the development mention traffic congestion, the cutting of the trees on the property, and loss of open space within the city. Also mentioned was the feeling Sisters is losing its personality and small-town charm with little real consideration for the negative impact to the quality of life for Sisters residents and the environment.

The planning file for the Sisters Woodlands can be found on the City website.


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