Hearing continued on Sisters development

 

Last updated 10/26/2022 at Noon



Council chambers at City Hall was packed last Thursday, October 20, for a Sisters Planning Commission public hearing on a proposed 12.92-acre residential development along the McKenzie Highway at the west end of Sisters.

The hearing addressed a master planned development, tentative subdivision, and minor partition on the Sunset Meadows property located in the multifamily residential district (MFR).The heavily treed property is located along the north side of Highway 242 across from Pole Creek Ranch, and backs up to The Pines senior housing community and the Oxbow Flats apartments on the north. The Episcopal Church is to the west across Brooks Camp Road, and the East Portal owned by the City is to the east across Hood Avenue.

Woodhill Homes is seeking approval to allow for a 71-lot residential development with 22 lots for single- family detached dwellings, 48 lots for attached townhomes, and one parcel for a multi-family residential development, including approximately 72-124 units (to be determined by a subsequent site plan review approval). The development is proposed in five phases.

There are a number of variances and modifications requested by the applicant including a reduction in lot sizes, density, square-footage of dwellings, setbacks, and length of driveways.

Several planning commissioners expressed concern that the plan as proposed has no buffer on either the north side between the attached townhomes and the adjacent Pines development or on the west side along Brooks Camp Road. They also noted there is no open space or common area within the entire development, other than the buffer between Highway 242 and the development.

The 94-foot-wide buffer along Highway 242 accounts for 30 percent of the property, twice the 15 percent required. The City wanted to preserve the setback from 242 that had been applied when the property had been in rural Deschutes County, to protect the scenic qualities of Highway 242, which is a designated scenic highway all the way into Sisters. Several suggestions were floated to possibly reduce the size of the south buffer a little and add a 10-foot buffer at the back.

Scott Woodford, community development director, explained that the City has no requirement in its code to have buffers between developments.

“If there was, we’d certainly follow that,” Woodford said.

The increase in traffic coming from Sunset Meadows, the Sisters Woodlands, and the new elementary school when it is built was also a concern for one of the commissioners, and many of the citizens in the chamber.

Prior to the October 20 hearing, the City received significant written comments related to tree removal, traffic impacts, density, architectural design, building mass, and building height.

Of the 15 people who testified at the hearing, 13 were opposed to either the entire development as proposed, or had concerns about increased density, noise, and traffic, loss of significant trees, impact on The Pines, erosion of Sisters’ small-town feel and beauty, blow-down of remaining trees, and strain on the city’s infrastructure.

Longtime Camp Sherman resident and local developer Shane Lundgren asked a philosophical question of the commissioners: “The State mandates that we provide a 20-year supply of residential land. What would be the recourse from the State if the City decided to not go that way? … It’s a difficult discussion because you can’t really move somewhere and pull up the ladder. That’s not really how society works. But we also have to protect and preserve things like Sisters that are unique. What’s the State going to do?... I think we just need to ask ourselves a bigger question.”

In order to give the public another opportunity to voice their opinions on Sunset Meadows, the public hearing was continued to the November 3 Planning Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. There were two other large meetings in town the night of October 20.

The record has been left open for both oral and written testimony. Written testimony can be sent prior to the November 3 meeting via email to principal planner Matthew Martin at [email protected] or mailed to Martin at City of Sisters, PO Box 39, Sisters 97759, or dropped off at City Hall, 520 East Cascade Ave. Reference file numbers MP 22-01, SUB 22-01, MNR 22-02.

Detailed information on the project is available on the City of Sisters website at ci.sisters.or.us. Click on Community Development then Notable Active Projects, and Sunset Meadows Master Plan.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, the commissioners will deliberate, and can either approve the application, approve with conditions, or deny the application on the basis of whether the applicable standards and criteria can be satisfied either as submitted, or as mitigated through conditions of approval.

The applicable criteria from the City of Sisters Development Code are listed on the front page of the Staff Findings and Recommendation, which can be found on the City website.

 

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