News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Where and how will Sisters grow?

The City of Sisters has kicked off a public process to help determine where the city will grow in the next 20 years.

City of Sisters staff is working up a Sisters Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) Amendment proposal. A UGB is a line drawn on land- use planning maps to designate the area within which a city expects to grow over a 20-year period. The purpose of UGBs in Oregon is to protect the state’s farm and forest lands from the pressures of urbanization and sprawl — the UGB is where the city ends and the farms and forests begin. Within a city’s UGB, growth can occur in the form of new houses, industrial developments, businesses, or public facilities such as parks and utilities.

The City’s UGB Amendment process is in response to State-mandated planning studies each city is required to conduct periodically. Recently, the City has updated its Comprehensive Plan, Housing and Economic Needs analyses (based on the 2043 population projections), and Buildable Lands Inventory to determine how much buildable land remains within the existing boundary.

According to City planning staff, those studies have concluded that the current Sisters UGB — which is the same area as the existing City boundary — will not be able to accommodate the expected growth and that several hundred additional acres are necessary.

“The State requires cities in Oregon to plan to accommodate a 20-year supply of growth within its UGB, and also plan for the transportation, utilities, and parks to serve it. Cities cannot just say ‘no’ to development in Oregon — we must plan for it,” said Community Development Director Scott Woodford. “Therefore, cities can accommodate it through increased infill development within its existing boundary or expand its UGB outwards. The Sisters City Council has determined that the best path for the future is a combination of ‘going up’ (through infill development) and ‘out’ through an expanded UGB to properly balance future growth.”

As part of this process — approximately 18 months in duration — the City will analyze the suitability of all lands within a half mile of the existing City boundary to be eligible for inclusion in the expanded UGB, followed by evaluating different UGB expansion area alternatives, and culminating in a preferred UGB expansion alternative that will be the subject of a formal land-use review process.

While State statute dictates a prescribed, technical process for UGB expansions, public input is both welcome and necessary throughout this process in order to ensure all perspectives are heard and support is built for the process and ultimate boundary amendment, Woodford noted.

There are multiple ways to stay up to speed and be engaged during the process: consult the project website at:, which includes frequently asked questions, story maps that help explain this process, project updates and instructions on how to sign up for automatic email updates.

“Also keep an eye out for open houses, surveys, community conversations, flyers, Nugget articles, social media posts, and Planning Commission and City Council meetings related to the topic,” Woodford stated.

“Finally, we are also looking for community volunteers to be on the UGB process Steering Committee, which will review draft materials, assist with the public engagement, and make key recommendations to City Council throughout the process. Along with elected and appointed officials, city staff, and farm and forest interests, the City is looking for six citizens to participate on the Steering Committee.”

More information and applications are available on the project website now through May 24.


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