Arguments heard in Thornburgh resort case

Developer wants to start building, but opponents say their approval has expired

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

A nearly decade-long dispute between backers and opponents of a planned destination resort west of Redmond came to a head during a public hearing Wednesday.

But Deschutes County commissioners could settle the Thornburgh resort case as soon as next month.

The start of the Great Recession and repeated appeals by opponents have kept Thornburgh from getting off the ground since it was first proposed in 2005, an attorney representing the developer argued Wednesday in front of Deschutes County commissioners.

But an attorney representing a nearby homeowner opposed to the plan argued Thornburgh’s approval to move ahead expired more than two years ago.

The legal wrangling between the two sides has gone on for years, bouncing from the county to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, the state Court of Appeals and even the Oregon Supreme Court, all of which have generally sided against the Thornburgh plan, but have given county commissioners the final say.

Commissioners must decide if Thornburgh developers have made any progress toward building since its original planning document, called a conceptual master plan, was approved in 2005. The plan becomes void if no significant construction occurs within two years, but developers received extensions until last year.

Attorney David Petersen, representing the resort, argued delays in construction are far beyond the developer’s control.

Petersen argued appeals at every step forced developers to defend their application.

“To apply a two-year expiration date to the (conceptual master plan) essentially requires squeezing a 12-year planning phase into two years,” Petersen said.

But opponents argued the developers had numerous chances to extend their timeline, including last year. Paul Dewey, a land use attorney, argued Thornburgh could have shown an effort to move forward by asking the county for additional extensions.

“The central issue, which is about fault, all comes down frankly to the applicant not having done anything,” Dewey said.

The initial Thornburgh master plan called for hundreds of homes and three golf courses on the property. But none of the homes have been built. Thornburgh went into bankruptcy in 2011, and a new developer has tried to pick up the project.

County commissioners didn’t rule on the case Wednesday. A decision is likely at some point in July.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com