Editorial: Grant destination resorts flexibility

Published Apr 27, 2013 at 05:00AM

Deschutes County commissioners are scheduled to hold a public hearing Monday to consider if destination resorts should be able to reduce the number of required overnight units. The commissioners should approve the change.

Almost nothing in Oregon land use law gets debated as much as destination resorts. Critics see them as wastrels of the land that subvert the intent of Oregon’s land use laws with negative environmental impacts and questionable economic benefits. Supporters emphasize the economic benefits. It’s hard to debate that Sunriver, in particular, has a legacy of driving tourism and prompting people to consider moving permanently to Central Oregon.

Resort developers have not been regularly building more overnight housing than they are required to under the law. It’s pretty clear that’s not where the money is.

Before 2003, destination resorts were required by state law to provide overnight lodging at a ratio of one unit of overnight lodging for every two individually owned lots, or 1:2. The state law was changed in 2009 to allow a 1:2.5 ratio. Pronghorn Intangibles LLC has requested an amendment to Deschutes County code, allowing the 1:2.5 ratio in this county. The proposal would change the requirement both for resorts that have already built overnight lodging and for those that have not.

Some critics of destination resorts will balk at anything that makes it easier for the resorts. The fact is that destination resorts are legal. If they are going to exist, it’s much better for Deschutes County if they thrive, rather than having the golf courses brown and the windows of the buildings blinded by plywood. Commissioners should give the resorts this slight bit more flexibility to succeed.