How will Sisters grow?
Last updated 11/7/2023 at 12:07pm
The City of Sisters is starting to tackle the key issue facing Sisters over the coming decades: How will the city accommodate significant expected growth?
Population projections from Portland State University say that the population inside the city limits will hit 7,108 in 2043 - more than double the current population of 3,475. Sisters currently does not have room to accommodate that kind of population. Sisters Community Development Director Scott Woodford, the State of Oregon requires action from cities to accommodate future growth.
"Typically, that is extension of the UGB (urban growth boundary)," Woodford told The Nugget last week.
At their November 8 meeting, the Sisters City Council is expected to give direction to City planning staff on the possibility of expanding the city's UGB to accommodate the next two decades of growth.
Woodford said the Council will be asked to consider hiring a consultant to help define what a UGB expansion would look like. A UGB extension plan must look at all lands within a half-mile of the City, and identify lands for inclusion rated on priority, favoring non-farmland and non-national forest lands, or low-quality resource first. Lands need to be adjacent to the City geographically suitable, and able to be served by utilities.
Woodford said the City would need to bring in 206 to 256 acres to accommodate need for housing and commercial lands.
"Staff could do some of that, but it really requires the help of someone who does this all the time," Woodford said.
The Council could delay action, Woodford acknowledged.
"Could they kick the can down the road a little bit?" he said. "I suppose."
There is anxiety among those who live in Sisters about the ability to absorb continual growth and maintain the values and quality of life that make Sisters attractive in the first place. In recent years, numerous local citizens have asked why the City can't declare a moratorium on growth. Refusal to expand the UGB would function as a de facto moratorium - but Woodford says the City can't do that under Oregon law.
It is not clear what leverage the State of Oregon would bring to bear if the Council took such a position. Woodford says he can't cite a municipality that has done so.
"That would be uncharted territory as far as I can tell," he said.
The land-use system is designed to contain urban sprawl - but the State wants to see housing built to alleviate a crisis in affordability across the state.
"Their mantra and their goal is to make it easier to build houses," Woodford said.
A long-standing City of Sisters ordinance requires a vote of the citizens in order to annex any development into the City. However, Woodford noted, the State passed a statute in 2015 that essentially overrides such local requirements, and means the City must approve an annexation as long as it conforms to land use requirements.
Woodford said that when a process gets underway, the City will seek public input.
"I anticipate that our public outreach with the UGB will be very robust," he said.
The Sisters City Council work session is set for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8, at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 520 E. Cascade Ave.