While there are still a couple of weeks left in 2017, Deschutes County’s community development department is already looking ahead to next year, with big projects planned near Sisters, at the Bend Airport and at several locations in between.

During a work session earlier in December, Nick Lelack, Deschutes County’s community development director, outlined several of the county’s long-range priorities over the next calendar year. The list included ongoing efforts like a review of the county’s marijuana policy, along with upcoming projects such as helping to develop an updated master plan for the Bend Municipal Airport, and supporting a long-term plan in and around Sisters, in an area known as Sisters Country.

“The Sisters Country plan will be charting new territory,” Lelack said Friday.

Patrick Davenport, community development director for the city of Sisters, said the city has been working on its visioning plan for the community for about four months. The city finalized a similar plan in 2007, but Davenport said the city and the surrounding unincorporated community have grown significantly since then.

Because of that, Davenport said the community is looking to take stock of its priorities, including expanding its economic development approach beyond tourism, and looking at ways to better balance recreation and forest management in the Deschutes National Forest.

“We see that as a big deal to our economy,” he said of the forest.

While Sisters has led the process, the vast majority of the Sisters Country area, which includes all of the Sisters School District, is located outside the city proper.

For that reason, Davenport said the city would be working with stakeholders such as Black Butte Ranch, Three Sisters Irrigation District, and Deschutes County’s community development department going forward. He added that the Sisters City Council will vote on a consultant for the visioning plan later this week.

“We’ve got a lot of different interests out there,” Davenport said.

Additionally, Deschutes County received a federal grant administered by the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office to survey historic buildings in and around Sisters.

Zechariah Heck, associate planner for Deschutes County, wrote in an email that the county is finalizing a contract with a professional historian, who will inventory buildings in the area to identify sites that may be worthy of recognition and preservation. Davenport pointed to the Sisters Saloon, on East Cascade Avenue, as a good fit for the program.

“That’s huge, that’s our landmark,” he said.

Elsewhere in Deschutes County, Lelack said the community development department will be working with Bend Airport while it updates its master plan. He said the airport, which sits on about 420 acres to the east of Bend’s urban growth boundary, has three different county zoning designations, which can hinder its growth. Streamlining that zoning could go a long way toward helping the airport be successful.

“The outcomes would really help the airport achieve its economic goals,” Lelack said.

Lelack and other Deschutes County staffers toured the airport several weeks ago, and will continue to stay in contact with airport administrators as they update their plan.

Other large-scale projects slated to kick off in 2018 include, but are not limited to, making sure Deschutes County’s agricultural lands are designated appropriately, and helping to facilitate Redmond’s annexation of land to the south of town, according to Lelack.

These new efforts will join what may be Deschutes County’s most anticipated ongoing project: the county’s review of its marijuana ordinances. Lelack said the county’s initial public comment process, which included an online survey, wrapped up at the end of November.

The next step, Lelack said, will be for the Deschutes County Commission to meet with representatives from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Water Resources Department and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. These meetings will likely continue through February, and any new amendments will move forward after that, according to Lelack.

“Whatever the outcome is, that will impact the rural county significantly,” he said.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com