|2/18/2014 12:45:00 PM|
Airport annexation moving to a conclusion
By John GriffithThe Sisters City Council has taken another step toward implementing the electorate's 2012 mandate to annex the Sisters Eagle Airport into the city.
With a series of 5-0 votes on Thursday, on a variety of ordinances, the council made the airport property officially a part of the City of Sisters. There was no public commentary offered, no comments from the applicant, and no discussion among the council.
Several ordinances remaining still need approval to complete Benny and Julie Benson's master plan applications to the City.
The airport master plan and site plan include an ENERGYneering Solutions, Inc. building, a pilot lounge, a café and covered patio, hangars, a two-story airport flex space with offices, fuel storage, heliports, a community garden, open space/fly-in camping areas, pilot overnight accommodations, fly-in/transient aircraft parking, a recreational area, and a caretaker unit and signage.
Community Development Director Pauline Hardie expects that the March 13 council meeting will be the earliest opportunity for council vote on these final pieces, subject to planning commission recommendations and completion of the City staff report.
Neither the City nor Bensons anticipate any further challenges or negotiations to be required for the acceptance of the master plan. But as applicant Benny Benson stressed, "It is not over until it is over."
Benny and Julie Benson brought ENERGYneering Solutions, Inc. to the Sisters airport in 2007. The firm provides engineering and design for landfill gas collection, biogas pretreatment systems, biogas-to-energy facilities, and biomass thermal facilities. Proximity to airport services was a major consideration for both their business and hobby interests.
At that time the airport was in county jurisdiction. The zoning was single-family farm, 10-acre minimum - an apparent error in zoning that was discussed at Thursday's meeting. After protracted negotiations, in 2011 the Benson's purchased the airport from long-time owner Dave Clemens.
Upon purchasing the airport, the Bensons began operating on multiple tracks. They promoted their rapidly expanding business, they reorganized the airport's business structure, and they applied for a number of grants to improve the facility, primarily the runway.
An ODOT Connect 4 grant combined with private funding led to a $750,000 rebuild of the runway which was dedicated in the summer of 2013 with a fly-in.
Meanwhile, the Bensons petitioned the City to annex the airport. There were a number of reasons that this move made sense for both the airport operations and the City.
For the airport and ENERGYneering, it meant they could expand and make changes at the airport without the onerous complications of dealing with a non-complying zoning in the county.
For the City, bringing the 34-acre airport property into the city would allow the City to capture tax revenues, and bring land-use control to the local jurisdiction. The airport is also viewed as a community asset, providing a base for emergency services, access for visitors who fly in to Sisters Country, and a key piece of transportation infrastructure that can be enhanced to help businesses locate in Sisters.
An annexation vote was on the November 6, 2012 ballot. It received an 85 percent approval from voters. Since that November 2012 decision, the City, county, state and other regulatory bodies have been working to bring the annexation to fruition.
The state and county had to weigh in on the expansion of the Sisters urban growth boundary. The Sisters-Redmond enterprise zone had to give their approval. Then the City needed to come to terms with the Bensons on the costs of water, sewer and street modifications.
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