City offers $675,000 for East Portal
Last updated 1/19/2022 at Noon
The City of Sisters is offering the U.S. Forest Service $675,000 to purchase the 14.51-acre East Portal property.
The property is located at the eastern terminus of Highway 242 at the northwest corner of west Highway 20 and Highway 242 and bordered on the west by West Hood Avenue. It is the final parcel of USFS land that was available for sale to help support redevelopment of the Sisters ranger station.
Sisters District Ranger Ian Reid told The Nugget that the purchase of the property by the City is “fantastic news.” He said the property has been on the market for a long time and the $675,000 offer from the City was the first legitimate offer received.
“That money will go a long way toward building the new ranger station and keeping the Forest Service in Sisters,” Reid said.
After more than two years of negotiations between the City and the USFS, the City’s Urban Renewal Agency (URA) approved an offer letter last week to be sent to Deschutes National Forest Supervisor Holly Jewkes.
In 2018, one of the top 20 strategies that came out of the Sisters Country Vision was “Forest Service Property Development.” Since that time, the parcel north of West Barclay Drive has been sold and is being developed as light industrial land. The large middle parcel has been sold for development of the Sisters Woodlands, including residential, mixed-use, open space, and light industrial zones. The parcel containing the current ranger station has been retained by the USFS for construction of their new facility, including a 13,000-square-foot station and a new warehouse.
In April 2019, when the City and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) partnered to send a letter to the Forest Service indicating a strong interest in maintaining public ownership of the East Portal, the USFS agreed to take the property off the market and work with the two entities on a sale. Normally, federal land is sold through a government sale auction where the highest bidder wins the auction and purchases the property at an unspecified price.
Negotiations involving the three parties became unwieldy due to government restrictions on both the FS and ODOT. Half of the 14.51 acres includes ODOT easements for the surrounding highways. The other half could be developed as a “mobility hub” for the City and serving western Deschutes County. To streamline the negotiations, the decision was made to have the City conduct negotiations with the Forest Service.
After the City purchases the full 14-plus acres, ODOT will pay the City for their half of the property, so the Urban Renewal Project Fund and the City will be reimbursed by ODOT for a portion of the $675,000 purchase price. By securing the property, the City will retain the opportunity to develop the East Portal in a way that will benefit Sisters. Members of the URA board agreed that, although the price was higher than originally anticipated, the long-term value of the property to the City far exceeds the price.
Over the next few months, the formal purchase and sale agreement will be crafted, approved, and signed by the USFS and the URA. The City would like to close by April 15, 2022.
In November 2020, the City applied to ODOT for a grant through the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund (STIF) to master plan a mobility hub for multi-modal transportation uses including bikes, pedestrians, and public transportation on part of the East Portal property. The City was notified in May 2021 that the City was awarded $80,000 toward this effort. The funds are contingent on owning the East Portal, or having a purchase option in place. These grant funds must be used by the end of June 2023, thus the desire to get the property secured.
The funds from the sale of the property are not going to Washington D.C.; rather they will remain in the community to construct the new ranger station. Included in the project work to be done by the Forest Service will be to design and construct improvements along North Pine Street, including adjustments to the paved multi-use path. The USFS will also pay connection fees to the City for sewer and water services to the new ranger station.
The total project is expected to take at least several years and will be done in phases. According to Supervisor Jewkes, “While the project will in part be funded through dollars acquired by the sale of the other former adjacent parcels, other costs involved are subject to appropriated funds, which have not been currently secured and are pending future congressional budget allocations. We expect to complete the improvements on Pine Street during Phase 2 or 3 of the ranger station construction project, which are still likely several years out.”
The proposed 13,000- square-foot, single-story building will be located northwest of the current office, oriented to North Pine Street. Reid is hopeful the first phase of the project will begin this summer.
He said the public will be invited to a public meeting to view the plans.