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A Custom-Made Resort Exemption 

At the Deschutes County Commission hearing earlier this month on a plan to metamorphose Aspen Lakes Golf Estates into a destination resort, there were a

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At the Deschutes County Commission hearing earlier this month on a plan to metamorphose Aspen Lakes Golf Estates into a destination resort, there were a lot of comments about how the owners of the development, the Cyrus family, are longtime Central Oregonians and good people.

It's true that the Cyruses have been here for generations, and we have no doubt they're fine folks. But the issue isn't how long the Cyrus family history is or what exemplary characters they are. It's about tweaking county regulations to benefit one particular developer. And it ought to be shot down.

The explanation of what the Cyruses want gets kind of technical. They created Aspen Lakes in the early '90s as a "cluster development" - a group of homes around an 18-hole golf course. Now they want to put in more houses and overnight accommodations. According to land use attorney Paul Dewey, who's representing nearby homeowners opposed to the plan, in a 2005 letter Matt Cyrus talked about 300 homes and 250 units of lodging.

Essentially the Cyruses are asking for the county code to be amended to exempt cluster developments that were built before 1992 - such as Aspen Lakes - from the normal requirements for applying for destination resort status.

State law says destination resorts have to build at least 50 overnight lodging units before they can sell any residential lots; the Cyruses want that changed because they've already sold more than a hundred lots. Designating Aspen Lakes as a destination resort would allow the Cyruses to put in more homes because state law allows resorts to retain less open space than cluster developments.

The Cyruses and their lawyer, Tia Lewis, correctly note there would still be a lot of hoops to jump through before Aspen Lakes could become a destination resort. But the change the Cyruses are asking for deserves to be rejected on its own merits, for at least a couple of reasons.

The first reason is a general one. The county has rules on the books governing the creation of destination resorts. What's the point of having rules if you're going to rewrite them every time a developer says he's inconvenienced?

The second reason is specific. If the county commissioners grant what the Cyruses want, they'll be cutting a loophole in the law tailor-made to fit one particular development.

Tia Lewis said as much in the cover letter to the Cyruses' application back in April: "It is unlikely there are any cluster developments in Deschutes County, other than Aspen Lakes, which would be able to obtain the consent of the owners [of existing homes]." Also, the exemption would apply only "to cluster subdivisions developed before 1992 which have an 18-hole golf course and dining facilities." Aspen Lakes just happens to be the only one in Deschutes County.

The county planning commission rejected the Cyruses' request by a 4-2 vote in June; now its fate is up to the county commissioners. They should join the planning commissioners, and us, in giving it THE BOOT.


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