What is behind Sisters code changes
Last updated 3/28/2023 at 1:41pm | View PDF
It’s great to see much community interest about the future of Sisters, which is demonstrated by the letters to the editor and comments at public meetings. It is important that these conversations are civil and based in fact, so I wanted to clarify several issues raised in the “Choosing Sisters’ Path” guest column in last week’s Nugget.
A package of amendments to the Sisters Development Code were considered and adopted by City Council on July 24, 2019 (Ordinance 497). Amendments to the code are a fairly common practice. It is incorrect, as the guest column alleges, that they were “quietly changed.” Between the Planning Commission and City Council, there were six public workshops on the topics — in addition to two public
The column also asks, “Did they read it?” In my experience, members of both bodies take their roles seriously and devote a lot of personal time to review information and ask many questions before making decisions. The column continues, without evidence, to allege financial conflicts of interest on the part of decision makers. As part of any public hearing, decision makers are required to disclose any biases or conflicts of interest and anyone, including the public, is entitled to challenge them. As staff who works with both citizen bodies, I find they operate with the highest of integrity and only want the best for Sisters.
Did the amendments open the door for “rampant growth?” No, most were housekeeping amendments — those without any significant public impact, and it did not create opportunities for more fast-food franchises and big boxes. To the contrary, the City continues to limit the number of franchise food restaurants to help retain our independent businesses, and it did nothing to make it easier to build big-box stores. The column correctly notes the ordinance did reduce minimum lot sizes, but only in the Urban Area Reserve zone (from 10 acres to 2.5 acres), which does not permit residential uses.
Did it affect service stations in the Downtown Commercial (DC) zone? Yes, before this they were “legal non-conforming” uses (meaning they were legal at one time, but the code changed). This meant they could continue to operate, but no improvements were allowed. Instead of seeing them fall into disrepair, the Council decided to make them conditional uses, which allowed them to expand (and rebuild), but gave the City much more oversight about determining compatibility with their surroundings before approving them.
Additionally, the city added additional landscaping requirements, canopy lighting standards, prohibitions on vehicle repair and outdoor storage, and imposed a 1,000-foot buffer between stations in the DC zone, effectively eliminating any additional ones. For more information about this and other meetings go to http://www.ci.sisters.or.us/meetings.
The City received a land-use application for the Space Age service station, requesting approval to replace the existing service station with a 3,500-square-foot convenience store and 16-pump fuel island and canopy. It is currently under review by the City of Sisters Community Development Department staff. Staff will evaluate the proposal against the development standards in the Code and refer it to the Planning Commission for a decision (tentatively scheduled for an informational work session on June 4, 2023, followed by a public hearing on June 18, 2023). Public comment is welcome and should address the applicable review criteria. To submit comments prior to the public hearing drop them off at Sisters City Hall at 520 E. Cascade Avenue, Sisters, or mail to PO Box 39, Sisters, OR 97759, or email to [email protected]. Oral testimony is permitted at the public hearing. See project website for more info: http://www.ci.sisters.or.us/community-development/page/space-age-service-