Planning commission mulls future of Conklin property

 

Last updated 3/26/2024 at 11:02am



Plans to turn the site of the former Conklin’s Guest House near the intersection of Camp Polk Road and Barclay Drive into a boutique RV park are wending their way through a multi-tiered planning process.

Sisters planning commissioners met in a workshop on Thursday, March 21, to get up to speed on proposed changes to the City of Sisters Development Code that would have to be in place before a formal plan for the site can be filed. The code changes are being proposed by the applicant rather than the City, in a process that is unusual — but not unprecedented — for Sisters.

The prospective developers — Lake House Inn, LLC (Ernie Larrabee) — are represented by Skidmore Consulting, LLC. In a memo to the City, Skidmore Consulting explained why they are pursuing an applicant-driven code change:

“There were questions about why the text amendment is proposed. The answer lies in the fact that the property owners have a vision to develop the property in a mixed-use fashion consistent with the purpose of the Sun Ranch Tourist Commercial (SRTC), but there was disagreement about what uses are permissible within the zone. The mix of uses envisioned includes various potential types of overnight accommodation to meet tourist demand, a tap house or similar, food carts, fire pits, a fishing pond, potentially a pickleball court, and other ideas.


“One of the key components of this vision is the concept of a boutique, higher-end RV park that caters to the growing sector of the tourism industry that travels in RVs. The existing SRTC zone contains ‘Lodging Facilities’ as a permitted use and the owner felt that term included an RV park use. The City was approached about whether an RV park could be proposed under the ‘Lodging Facilities’ use. Staff explained that because the ‘RV Park’ use is defined in the Sisters Development Code and not listed specifically as a use in the SRTC, ‘Lodging Facilities’ doesn’t include the RV park use. Staff suggested the applicant-initiated text-amendment application route as the way to have the RV park use considered for inclusion in the SRTC.”


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The workshop allowed planning commissioners to ask planning staff questions about the proposed code changes, but they were not allowed to discuss the pros and cons of a possible project. That discussion must wait till the developers file a development plan for the property. Deliberations on the proposed code changes will take place after a public hearing, tentatively set for Thursday, April 18.


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In a staff report, principal planner Matthew Martin explained how the process works:

“While the review process is the same for applicant- and city-initiated legislative amendments, the timing of the opportunity for the Planning Commission to evaluate and refine the amendments is different. The Commission has likely become familiar with the city-initiated process that can involve a lengthy process of developing, drafting, and refining the amendments prior to the public hearing. In contrast, for applicant-initiated amendments the applicant has completed the initial steps of developing and drafting the amendments prior to the public hearing. This does not mean the Commission recommendation is limited to an approval or denial of the amendments as drafted. To the contrary, the Commission has the opportunity to recommend refinement of, or changes to, the amendments they see appropriate. The difference is that instead of discussing refinement or changes before the hearing, the discussion will take place during deliberations following the close of the public hearing.”


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Martin made note of an answer to public comment that had raised concerns about the future of the “historic site.” While the Conklin house, once known as the Hitchcock house, holds important memories for many people who remember “old Sisters,” it is not an officially “historic” site.

Martin reported:

“The property contains old structures or may have a history of significance to the community, but this alone does not make it a protected historic resource requiring preservation. To be a protected resource it must be designated on the local (Oregon Land Use Goal 5) historic resource inventory or the National Register of Historic Places. The subject property is not listed on either. Therefore, there are no requirements or standards for preservation that are applicable to the subject property.”


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If the planning commission approves the code changes, the next steps for the developer would be to craft a detailed development plan for the property. It is at that point in the process that issues such as traffic impacts and the specific proposed uses of the property would be up for discussion and debate.

Jon Skidmore previously told The Nugget that the project could come on stream in 2025.


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Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit www.frontierpartisans.com.

 

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