Citizens turn out to oppose project
Last updated 11/9/2022 at Noon
Citizens packed the hearing room at City Hall last week to register their opposition to the proposed development of Sunset Meadows by Woodhill Homes on Highway 242.
At the first public hearing before the Planning Commission on October 20, it was standing room only and the hearing was continued to Thursday, November 3. There were over 60 people in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, with 17 people testifying. No one testified in favor of the development.
Prior to last week’s meeting, the City was notified that, due to scheduling conflicts, no representative of Woodhill Homes would be attending the November 3 hearing, and they requested the hearing be continued again. The Planning Commission will hold a third public hearing on December 8, 5:30 p.m., at City Hall. The oral and written record will remain open until that time.
The testimony against the development included its location at the beginning of Scenic Byway Highway 242. The increased traffic generated by the proposed single-family homes, townhomes, and apartments, when added to that from the Sisters Woodlands across Highway 20, McKenzie Meadows Village, Village at Cold Springs, the middle and high schools, plus the new elementary school, concerned many in attendance who questioned the validity of the traffic study provided with development plans. Along that same line was the question of how, in case of an emergency or disaster, all those residents would be able to get out of the area at the same time.
One 17-year Sisters resident had a list of questions he asked the Planning Commission and City Council to “reflect on and then do the right thing. Do we need a time out on development? Do we have the proper infrastructure to support all the development? Should a new neighborhood be developed that will damage already existing ones? Why are you in such a rush to fill the UGB? Are we in danger of destroying Sisters?”
The developer is asking to reduce the rear garage setback from the standard 20 feet to 18 feet. One gentleman had researched the lengths of the five most popular pickup trucks and found they are 17.5 to 21 feet long, with the average of 19.8 feet. He also said his research showed that since COVID, more pickups are being sold than cars in this region.
The question was posed several times about why the buffer between the development and Highway 242 is 94 feet deep and there is no buffer between Sunset Meadows and the neighboring Pines development.
Citizens raised concerns about effects of development on the character of Sisters.
“The DNA of Sisters is the mountains, rivers, and trees,” offered one man. “If we destroy that, we destroy everything.”
Another man pointed out that Sisters is landlocked between exclusive farm use land (EFU) and national forest. Others said this urban- style development doesn’t suit Sisters. Testimony reflected concerns about destruction of wildlife corridors, cutting 400-plus trees in a Tree City USA town, compromising Sisters’ dark skies ordinance, and jeopardizing the beauty of the community.
One woman who testified currently lives in a Woodhill home in another part of town and said that Woodhill didn’t consider the community for which they were building. They filled up the lots with their houses built close to lot lines, the garages were insufficient, and there was no room for cars.
Most everyone seemed to agree that if the project is approved, they would like to see the trees saved, reduce the number of dwelling units, provide buffers between other developments, and design open space with paths within the interior of the development.
The statement, “I hate to see Sisters become a memory” received applause from the room. “I hate to think we’re not in charge of our town. I hope you (Planning Commission and staff) will take what the people are saying to heart.”
Prior to the December 8 public hearing, all submitted evidence and material related to the application are available for inspection at City Hall. Copies of all materials are available on request at a reasonable cost. The Planning Commission hearing is accessible to the public either in person or via Zoom online meeting. Meeting information, including the Zoom link and packet, can be found on www.ci.sisters.or.us/meetings.