Expansion of Aspen Lakes has a history of opposition


Last updated 10/4/2022 at Noon


The west side of Camp Polk Road, where part of a project planned by Rhue Resorts will be developed.

The Cyrus family is no stranger to opposition to development plans.

The family, headed by patriarch Keith, bought 1,100 acres of forest land in the 1980s adjacent to their Cloverdale hay and potato farm and turned it into Aspen Lakes Golf Course, with a cluster of around 115 homesites, since built upon as Aspen Lakes Estates, where homes routinely sell in the range of $1.5 to $2.5 million.

The Cyruses have never been opaque about their intentions to fill out the acres as a destination resort. More than once, efforts at growing the property for other uses have not succeeded, for a variety of reasons, mostly financial, but in no small part due to the opposition from grassroots organizations like OLAWA (Oregon Land and Water Alliance).

The OLAWA defeated a 2014 effort to convert Aspen Lakes to a resort.

The Nugget asked OLAWA what their intentions might be in view of the planned takeover of Aspen Lakes by Rhue Resorts. Donna Lipscomb, president, said: “I am able to report that we have no comment at this time. However, we will contact you as soon as we have more information regarding the details of the potential development project.”

The Cyruses have a long history of service on the Deschutes County Planning Commission. Keith was at one time head, and son Matt is currently a member. Their presence on the commission has been subject to accusations of favoritism with regards to Aspen Lakes. It’s arguable whether the Cyrus’ influence benefited them or not, as all these years later the property remains in its original configuration.

The land proposed for expansion is “mapped” in the Deschutes County resort overlay map.

It is also widely believed that no new destination resorts can be established within 24 miles of a city with 100,000 population, a threshold Bend has now reached. The Cyrus firmly believes that they are exempt, effectively “grandfathered,” and thus able to build out their vision, or, in this case, sell it off to Rhue.

To say that is complex would be a significant understatement; the history at the state and county level is pages upon pages, all stemming from a seemingly worthwhile legislative goal following the collapse of the real estate economy in 2008. The idea was to aid counties hardest hit, those generally being smaller and rural.

It’s also an understatement to say that the County’s actions surrounding classifying Aspen Lakes was messy. On June 7, 2010 Deschutes County commissioners backtracked on an amendment that would allow Aspen Lakes to be mapped as a destination resort. The move came after a confusing decision earlier that month that gave the appearance to some that the commissioners were giving special treatment to Aspen Lakes developers at the expense of public input.

Later, in 2013, Aspen Lakes hoped to develop further with special use legislation authored by Rep. John Huffman (R - The Dalles). The legislation did not pass. That bill would have allowed up to 480 residential units; overnight lodging facilities such as cabins, condominiums, and townhouses; recreation facilities; and a motorcoach resort facility with up to 100 spaces.

The bill called for development “in conjunction with a transfer of development opportunity” from the proposed Metolian resort in the Metolius Basin. Transfer Development Opportunities (TDOs) were established in 2009 when the legislature effectively disallowed the Camp Sherman-area development under a provision declaring the Metolius Basin an Area of Critical State Concern. The TDOs allow the developers to use their rights elsewhere under specific restrictions. (See related stories, page 1 and page 19.)

Matt Cyrus, who now speaks for the family, expects efforts to disrupt their pending sale.

“This may end up as a Measure 49 claim,” Cyrus said.

In 2007, Oregon voters passed Measure 49 that codifies 2004’s Measure 37 with the intent to provide compensation to property owners whose use of their property has been limited by Oregon’s land use laws over the duration of their ownership.


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