The decadelong saga of a former mining pit turned private lake for water-skiers may be nearing a conclusion.
Tanager, a proposed residential community to the northwest of Bend with 19 high-end homesites organized around two lakes, will be the subject of a Deschutes County land use hearing on Monday — developers of the property want a conditional use permit — but the county’s decision won’t be released until November or December.
The northern lake is an 8-acre semicircle intended to be used for swimming and, eventually, fishing. But the southern lake, a shallow, femur-shaped pond with islands at both ends, could become a place for the community’s residents to ski the waves.
“It’s a unique project for the area,” said Tanager co-owner Bri Cadwell.
With a favorable decision, owners could begin turning the dry and largely empty 104-acre parcel into a tight-knit community around the water-skiing lake, said Ken Katzaroff, general council for KC Development Group, LLC, which owns the development.
However, a group of neighbors led by Thomas and Dorbina Bishop has mounted a series of legal challenges to the development, arguing that the project has moved forward without the proper permits, and that having a lake dedicated to water-skiing represents a threat to the surrounding neighborhood’s peace and quiet.
“It’s a novel project, and novel projects are difficult,” Katzaroff said.
The property, formerly home to the Klippel surface mine, was purchased by Harris Kimble in 2006 and converted to residential zoning shortly thereafter. Since then, the former mining pits have been lined and rebuilt as ponds, and were used as a water source when firefighters battled the Two Bulls and Shevlin fires.
While the vision for the community has changed slightly since 2007, Cadwell said the idea of having a lake for residents to water-ski on has remained at the center of the plan.
“We’re not the only family in Central Oregon that has a passion for this,” Cadwell said.
In 2013, the property owners reached out to Tumalo Irrigation District, on the advice of the Oregon Water Resources Department, looking to build ponds that could double as reservoirs for the irrigation district. Kenneth Rieck, manager of the Tumalo Irrigation District, said the district was looking to better maintain flows within Tumalo Creek while keeping their customers happy. Rieck said the water system has dramatic ebbs and flows over the course of the day, and having additional reservoirs on the system would allow them to manage water flow better.
“Because the ponds are so big, (water flow) can be turned off for a day or two,” Rieck said.
Using reservoirs built on private land allows the irrigation district to save money on building and lining reservoirs to prevent leakage, while the property owners get the rights to 59 acres of irrigation water distributed throughout the property, more than 19 million gallons.
“They get their benefits, we get our benefits, plus a little cash,” Rieck said.
However, the project has attracted its fair share of controversy. During prior appeals, the Bishops — who could not be reached for comment — have raised concerns about various parts of the process, including the county’s permitting process, the impact of the project’s location on the Tumalo Winter Deer Range and the potential noise impact of having water-skiing near their home.
Katzaroff stressed that noise was not a factor. In 2015, the owners tested sound levels from several neighboring properties and found it to be “less than ambient noise” from outside the property, according to Katzaroff.
“The wind is louder, the birds are louder,” he said.
Katzaroff added that jet-skis would not be allowed on the lake, and that water-skiing would be done one boat at a time, with reservations handled through Tanager’s website.
The public hearing for the project will begin Monday at 6 p.m., at the Deschutes County Services building at 1300 NW Wall St. During the meeting, a hearings officer will hear issues related to the irrigation district’s water, the subdivision itself, and the southern lake’s status as a recreational facility.
“It’s a big, messy process,” Katzaroff said
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