By Elon Glucklich
Sisters Airport is now officially part of Sisters, a step city officials hope will spur new construction and lure more flights to the area.
After more than two years of planning, negotiations with Deschutes County and outreach with residents near the airport, Sisters city councilors last week annexed the airport from county property into the city.
The city had hoped to make the move sooner. Sisters voters approved the annexation in November 2012, but negotiations with the airport owners took longer than expected.
And some residents who live around the airport have voiced concerns over noise from increased air traffic. Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger has said he’s received several calls from residents living in the airport area. He met with some of the residents late last year.
Sisters officials said development of the 35-acre airport has been hampered by Deschutes County’s zoning of the property as low-density, rural land. They’ve long wanted to bring it into the Sisters boundary and rezone the land for airport development.
Last week’s approval means long-standing development ideas can move into planning stages, Sisters Airport Manager Hobbs Magaret said Wednesday.
Those plans include building new hangars for planes, a jet fuel tank, a pilot lounge and cafe. Plans also call for an expansion of the airport building that houses Energyneering Solutions, a renewable energy company operated by Bennie and Julie Benson, who have owned the airport since 2011.
Many of those plans are a year or more off, Magaret said, although hangar construction could happen this year. The airport master plan calls for eventually building up to 30 of them, none of which have been built yet.
“We have every intention of putting in some hangars this year. We’re going to move fast to try and get it done,” Magaret said.
The airport has taken advantage of state grants to finance other improvements. A $600,000 Oregon Department of Transportation grant financed a runway expansion in 2012, to double the runway’s width so larger planes could land.
But annexation means the airport can grow without some of the zoning restrictions that derailed past efforts, Sisters Mayor Brad Boyd said. He said no one spoke against annexation at a public hearing last week. The city council voted unanimously in favor of moving forward.
“This is a win for property owners, a win for the airport and a win for the city of Sisters,” Boyd said. “If the airport gets a little more use than it was getting in the past, that’s nothing but good.”
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