There was a steady drumbeat at City Hall at last week's Planning Commission hearing regarding the Hayden Homes McKenzie Meadow Village (MMV). That drumbeat was traffic and safety concerns from adjoining Village at Cold Springs neighbors, another Hayden development.

Hayden is seeking approval of their Master Plan Development (Type III), Comprehensive Plan Map and Zoning Map Amendment (Type III/IV), Tentative Subdivision (Type III), and Development Agreement. Neighbors are concerned that if Hill and Williamson streets in Village at Cold Springs are connected to MMV, increased traffic, traveling at higher speeds, will pose safety threats to children playing and riding bikes in the streets, adults walking, and cars backing out of driveways.

At the request of a Village at Cold Springs resident, the hearing was continued to Thursday, March 21 at 5:30 p.m. Oral testimony was closed at the end of the evening, but the record will remain open for 14 days. The public has seven days to submit written comments on anything to do with the application to the City.

Current City code requires neighborhood streets be 36 feet wide. The private streets in Village at Cold Springs are only 28 feet wide, a modification approved by a former Planning Commission. When Hayden Homes turned over the homeowners' association to the Village at Cold Springs board, they inherited the maintenance of those streets.

The speed limit on the narrow streets is 10 mph as adopted by the HOA. The streets on either side of Village at Cold Springs have 25 mph speed limits. Because the village streets are private, the sheriff's department is hesitant to patrol them so there is no way to enforce the reduced speed limit.

Any repairs to the streets are the responsibility of the HOA with funds from resident dues. The HOA has spent $25,000 to fix 2,200 linear feet of cracks in the pavement. Snow removal, with no place to put the removed snow other than in piles on the streets, has to be contracted and paid for with HOA money.

Senior planner for the City, BreAnne McConkie, in her presentation of the staff findings regarding the master plan application, recommended approval of a majority of the master plan and the other applications because they met development code requirements, the criteria by which applications are evaluated.

There were six conditions attached to the approvals dealing with alternative phasing of building, additional amenities requirements, tree protection, modified development standards, the timing requirements for multi-family units, street connections and right-of-ways, and minimum garage setbacks.

The development agreement concerning affordable housing units (AHUs) was recommended for full approval with no conditions.

A year ago a public meeting was held to listen to concerns about the proposed development. As a result of what they heard, Hayden's first draft of the MP included installation of emergency gates on Hill and Williamson that would keep those streets closed between Village at Cold Springs and MMV except for emergency vehicles.

Based on current development code criteria for connectivity, the City required the streets be ungated and fully accessible. Joe Bessman, traffic engineer with Transight Consulting, who reviewed the streets and access requirements for the City, testified that encouraging a local grid plan for City streets promotes easy emergency access, provides nearby residents with choices of streets to travel, and disperses vehicle trips over a variety of streets, particularly during peak travel times. The development code encourages a limited use of cul de sacs and closed-end street systems.

Bessman reported that increased ingress/egress points provided by a grid system reduces the congestion that results from local traffic funneling down to connector streets like McKinney Butte Road and Railway Avenue. He contended data shows that narrower street sections like those in Village at Cold Springs encourage lower speeds.

"We can manage the neighbors' concerns with the design as proposed," he concluded.

City staff recommended against approval of a request by Hayden to reduce the overall size of MMV lots abutting Village at Cold Springs from 4,500 square feet to 4,050, saying the smaller lots are not an enhancement. Staff also recommended against approving a request for a 10 percent reduction in certain driveways from 20 feet to 18 feet. Hayden will be required to include an additional amenity in the subdivision.

April Pust, Hayden's land development manager, pointed out that the latest Housing Needs Assessment for Sisters indicates a need for 1,039 new housing units by 2039. She said MMV would fill 20 percent of that need.

She went on to report that through a partnership with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, any trees removed from the property would be used for restoration projects along Whychus Creek.

Representatives of the current owners of the MMV property who are selling to Hayden, Ashley Reed Okura, Curt Kallberg, and Bill Willitts, spoke in favor of the MMV master plan.

Okura, whose family has owned property in Sisters since 1968, said, "The building of MMV will make a dent in the Sisters housing shortage," and pointed out the benefit of the AHUs with zero-down, zero-interest loans.

Kallberg encouraged those in the chamber to "all be good neighbors." He reminded those assembled that he and his partners bought the land and paid taxes on it with the intention of developing it long before any of them were here. The partners paid to upsize the sewers in that area, which eventually served Village at Cold Springs. After long legal battles and appeals over the development, the partners concluded it was time to let someone else develop the property.

Willitts came forward to praise Hayden as a "quality organization" that was the best choice of all the large building companies they interviewed.

George Meyers and Sharlene Weed, of Sisters, both raised questions about an earlier proposed Construction Excise Tax (CET) under consideration by City Council that was apparently shelved when Hayden threatened to not develop MMV if they had to both build the 20 AHUs and pay a CET on all 200 units. The money from the CET would most likely be used to fund more affordable housing in Sisters. Willitts had asked the City to do a survey to determine if there were any other cities in Oregon that required both. None were found.

Weed, executive director of Sisters Habitat for Humanity, was a member of City Council for eight years, during which time MMV was annexed into the City, and she was involved in placing the original restrictions on development of the property. She is against the current proposed development agreement.

As a part of the amended development agreement, Hayden will pay a total of $50,000 into the City's Affordable Housing Fund, build the 20 AHUs, and not be subject to any subsequent CET that might be instituted prior to the completion of MMV. Meyers voiced his concern that the City "left a pile of money sitting on the table."

A few citizens spoke against approval of the entire MP application. A majority of those who testified were not opposed to the development of MMV, but were adamantly opposed to connection of Hill and Williamson streets to MMV, for the aforementioned reasons.

Board president of the Village at Cold Springs HOA, Doug Wills, provided a summary of the residents' concerns and highlighted several key points for the Planning Commission to consider in their deliberations. He pointed out that in the Access and Circulation Code in the latest Transportation Safety Plan, Goal 1 addresses livability and Policy B states, "Protect residential neighborhoods from excessive through traffic and travel speeds." Goal 6, Policy A states, "Design streets to support their intended users."

Wills' question to the commissioners was: "How will the current codes protect the residents by connecting Williamson and Hill?" He asked that the commissioners recommend installation of emergency gates on Williamson and Hill.