News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

City faces serious decisions on growth

Some serious decisions are ahead for Sisters’ volunteer city councilors and planning commissioners.

At last week’s joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission, members of City staff and consultants from APG-MIG provided the latest draft reports on “efficiency measures” and housing plan updates. These projects attempt to address continuing growth in Sisters, as well as the need to meet state-mandated planning requirements.

The consultants and staff were looking to receive direction from both bodies on which strategies make sense. The questions they were asked to consider when providing feedback included: Are we missing any housing strategies? Are we missing any efficiency measures? Are any of the strategies/measures non-starters for you? Which strategies/measures do you like the most and should be most prioritized?

At this point, the staff and consultants were asking for a 10,000-foot view, not details. After receiving feedback, revisions will be made to the plan updates, and follow-up meetings will occur in July and August.

Examples of housing strategies the community might consider in order to provide for future housing needs fall into the following overarching categories: zoning and code changes; reducing regulatory impediments; financial incentive; financial resources; tax exemption and abatement; and land acquisition, lease, and partnerships.

There was general agreement that zoning and code changes could be made to encourage builders to build the type of housing needed in Sisters. Besides providing low-cost housing, more options are needed for middle-income home buyers and renters.

Stakeholder interviews indicate that the City needs to have clear policies for what is needed; increased density is necessary to build low-cost housing; creative and flexible solutions are needed; and partnerships could enable some projects.

Incorporating supporting demographic information and a detailed analysis on each strategy, an evaluation of each was based on the following factors: legal risk; administrative capacity; cost; alignment with the City’s comprehensive plan; community support; and degree of impact.

The Efficiency Measures Project is exploring strategies to use land within the City’s current urban growth boundary (UGB) more efficiently in order to evaluate whether, and to what extent, an amendment (expansion) to the UGB is needed to accommodate future housing and other land needs. The State requires this assessment be done before it will grant approval for a UGB expansion.

All efficiency measures are considered, but not all must be adopted. One factor on which there was general agreement is that the current maximum density requirements in multi-family residential zones is too low, making it financially unfeasible for builders to build that type of housing.

The report presented last week included a more thorough evaluation of each efficiency measure in terms of the impact they would have on the city’s housing needs, consistency with adopted plans (mainly the Comprehensive Plan), the administrative burden, costs, and legal risk to implement them, as well as the general level of support in the community for the measures.

Before any final adoption of projects, the public will have opportunities to hear and express their thoughts on proposed strategies.

For a complete review of the reports, visit the City website, www.ci.sisters.or.us, under Meetings and Agendas, June 15, Joint Meeting packet.

The two bodies also heard short updates on the City’s water system and the alternate route and Transportation System Plan.

 

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