A work group organized by Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, again visited the possibility of expanding Aspen Lakes Golf Course to a full destination resort.
Huffman convened the work group Monday at the Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District Community Hall to discuss options for adding Deschutes and Jefferson counties to the list of areas eligible for “transfer development opportunity” funding. Huffman said he plans on drafting a bill that would make both counties eligible by the Nov. 26 deadline for deliberation during the 2014 legislative session.
In 2009, the Oregon Legislature declared the Metolius River Basin an area of critical concern and banned development of destination resorts in the environmentally sensitive area. As a consolation prize, the Legislature passed House Bill 3313, which granted special development rights to the Metolian development group for being blocked from its original development plans. Under HB 3313, the Metolian group is allowed to build an eco-resort on forestland in certain counties with historically high unemployment rates, where such a development would not usually be allowed.
In 2011, the Legislature extended the amount of time developers have to find a suitable site with HB 3572.
Developer Shane Lundgren, who’d planned to build The Metolian and the Ponderosa Land and Cattle Co., was no longer legally able to do so after the Metolius River Basin was declared environmentally sensitive. The Legislature awarded Lundgren’s group the TDO when its original plans were thwarted.
Monday, Lundgren said the Cyrus property is not the only option for the eco-resort. Six sites throughout the state are viable options for resort development of the type his group is trying to create, he said.
Though Huffman said the work group met to discuss Deschutes and Jefferson counties eligibility for TDOs, much of the three-hour meeting focused on potentially expanding the Cyrus property from a subdivision and golf course into a destination resort, something the Cyrus family has been trying to do for several years.
“We will not have any bill that deals with the Cyrus property or any other piece of property,” Huffman said. “I do not know the best wording yet, but the bottom line would be to at least include Jefferson and Deschutes counties.”
Jefferson County Planning Director Bill Adams at an Oct. 1 meeting expressed interest in having Jefferson County included as a possible recipient of TDO funds. Deschutes County Community Development Department Director Nick Lelack said Monday that County Commission is interested as well.
Prior attempts by the Cyrus family to gain permission to expand into a destination resort were met with opposition. People at both the Oct. 1 and the Monday meetings reiterated their distaste for the project.
“This issue has been answered on more than one occasion, and the answer on a destination resort in our community has been a resounding no,” Deb Lewis said at the Oct. 1 meeting. “It is also quite annoying that one family can get a HB on the agenda that assists only them.”
Merry Ann Moore, a Sisters resident, opposes expansion of the Aspen Lakes subdivision. Monday, she said she believes a destination resort would violate deed restrictions already in place between property owners in the subdivision and the Cyrus family. Moore also said expansion would violate open space laws in the area.
About 40 people, including representatives from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Water Resources Department, attended the Monday meeting. About half were part of the work group; the others were Sisters residents and other stakeholders. Most who spoke during the public comments section said they didn’t want another destination resort in their neighborhood.
Converting the Aspen Lakes Golf Course and subdivision into a destination resort featuring 480 residential units hasn’t been a popular idea for Sisters residents. The Cyrus family has fought for years to have its land included on the county’s destination resort zone map.
Matt Cyrus on Monday said he believed his family’s plans for a small-scale destination resort would be good for the community, bringing jobs and tourist revenue.
“Our biggest fear is that we aren’t able to move forward and someone else buys and does something large scale,” he said. “Sisters was a dying timber town in the ’70s when Black Butte Ranch came around.”
Jon Jinings, with state Land Conservation and Development, said the next public work group would be held sometime in mid-November.