Sisters community members weighed in on different ideas for community assets to boost economic vitality. photo by Gary Miller
By John Griffith
Sisters Country citizens have a pretty clear idea of the kinds of amenities they want to see in their community. The ideas that percolated to the top of a community forum held last week include: A medium-size expo-convention center; a winter-sports-park/ice rink; an arts-science-history activities building, and a field house for indoor team practice and competitions.
The City-sponsored economic development forum on Tuesday, February 25, drew more than 150 Sisters Country residents to Sisters Middle School to share their ideas on what the City could do to promote a healthy business community in Sisters.
Facilitator Liam Hughes solicited a range of opinions from speakers, which were tabulated using colored sticky dots. After about an hour of public comment, the ideas voiced by attendees were listed on flip-chart pages and posted on the walls. Each community member was given five colored "dots" to stick on the ideas they most supported.
There was a significant spread between the top four vote-getters and the wide variety of other projects listed. The proposed amphitheater project that spawned both of the two earlier and somewhat raucous town hall meetings and this economic development forum received less than five votes.
Although city officials declined to comment on the status of the amphitheater project on the record, it appears that the amphitheater project will no longer be pursued by the city.
The audience was respectful, well-behaved and engaged as a widely diverse set of ideas emerged.
Bill Willitts used a diagram on the white board to point out that the lodging business in July is at capacity, but that November through April it is at about 30 percent of what it is in July. He speculated that restaurants and retail probably see a similar pattern.
"I think that we have to decide that if we are here to bring economic vitality to the community, then our focus has to be in those months when it gets incredibly difficult to be in business here," said Willitts.
This "fill-in-the-gap" concept formed the core of many of the suggestions made by others, including a tram to the top of Black Butte, and a gondola from Sisters to Mt. Bachelor for skiing and backcountry access year-round.
Matt Cyrus said, "We have a lot of summer activities. Everything fills up in the summertime, but everything dies in the winter. We have the infrastructure built up for peak. I would suggest that we consider building a medium-sized convention facility. People from all over the Northwest want to come to Central Oregon, specifically Sisters."
One woman noted, "We moved here 18 years ago with our children. We left promising careers to come here to raise our kids. We took the risk to move here, just like you did. We've got to create a community platform for people like us to move here. Innovative, creative, well-educated people."
Engineer and airport-owner Benny Benson weighed in.
"I know you are all searching in concepts," he said. "Let me give you a couple of tag lines. I believe the city should not be in business to be in business. I believe that, within reason, the city should not burden businesses that are here or trying to be here with infrastructure improvements. If they (the city) are going to invest in business, it should be in infrastructure. There needs to be something unique to draw businesses here."
Mayor Brad Boyd said of the meeting, "I thought it went pretty well. Most people were here to move things forward. We (the city) need to do more outreach. We need more research. The community has said we would like you to do a little due diligence on this stuff."
Posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014
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My wife, Marjie, and I have lived just outside of Sisters off Wilt Road since 2002. We love the area. We do some traveling, particularly in the winter, and are presently in South Texas. As we travel through many small communities and towns of our great country one thing we notice is that practically every one has a community cemetery. Some are very small others larger. But no matter the size it is usually a very well kept space used to honor the people who have made their particular community special. Other than Camp Polk, Sisters has no such space. I think developing a community cemetery for our area would be be a very worth while project.