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Sunriver Resort is again revising a proposal that would allow it to build employee housing at the Sunriver Business Park in light of concerns raised by the Deschutes County Commission.

On Wednesday, the County Commission heard a proposal from the destination resort to change the zoning at the Sunriver Business Park to allow for employee housing. The resort wants to build apartments or dormitories on a 3.25-acre parcel of land that would house about 200 employees from Sunriver Resort, Crosswater, Caldera Springs and Mt. Bachelor.

While generally supportive of the concept, the County Commission pushed voting on the proposal until next week over enforcement concerns that the current language that defines who qualifies for the housing is too vague.

The resort currently defines an “employee” within the proposal as a person who earns a living by working in the hospitality, food and beverage, outdoor recreation or tourism industry in, or within, two miles of Sunriver, or for someone who works at Mt. Bachelor.

“Does that include the river guides? The people who rent out the kayaks and canoes that aren’t resort related?” Commissioner Phil Henderson said. “It seems like you are creating community housing.”

Because this proposal would change what is allowed for not just Sunriver Resort, but for anyone seeking to build employee housing in the Sunriver Business Park, some on the County Commission wanted to make sure language was clear for future employee housing applications.

To address these concerns, Steven Hultberg, a lawyer representing the resort, suggested the zoning code be changed to require that housing built in Sunriver Business Park has to be owned by a Sunriver employer, and that residents in this housing must be limited to employees of that employer.

“It’s not the intent of the resort to open this up to other employees,” Hultberg said to the County Commission.

The proposal is coming forward because the resort has struggled to find housing for the more than 500 employees it hires in the summer to work at the height of tourism season. Tom O’Shea, the managing director of Sunriver Resort, said Wednesday his company currently spends about $500,000 a year on renting homes around Central Oregon for its employees.

“When you go to a college (job fair), the first question they ask is ‘Do you provide housing?’” O’Shea said. “If you say no, they go on to the next company.”

The resort has already adjusted the proposal once in advance of presenting to the county board. Changes were made to address parking and enforcement issues raised by the county’s planning commission, which voted down the proposal in December.

The resort narrowed the definition of “employee” in response to the planning commission, which was previously defined as someone working within 20 miles of the housing complex.

The resort also took out a key aspect of the original proposal, which would have allowed nonemployees to stay in the housing outside of peak tourism seasons in the summer and winter, according to county documents. That is to address a concern from the planning commission that nonemployees would have more cars that could add to a potential parking problem, and create other complicated management issues.

The Deschutes County Commission will hear the proposal again Feb. 19.

Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

(1) comment

Bubba

This is a business decision, and offering seasonal employees a cost-effective place to stay is a huge recruiting advantage. Where do the county commissioners add any value to this equation....? There are far more impactful issues that need to be dealt with on behalf of taxpayers.

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