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Crazy Destination Resort Love 

Welcome to the boomtown.Deschutes County is just CRAZY in love with destination resorts. We have way more of them than any other county in Oregon,

click to enlarge Welcome to the boomtown.
  • Welcome to the boomtown.
Welcome to the boomtown.Deschutes County is just CRAZY in love with destination resorts. We have way more of them than any other county in Oregon, with more being proposed every week, it sometimes seems.

The love is not unanimous. In the decades since the county's first destination resorts - Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch - were built, many residents have gotten weary of the relationship.

They complain that the resorts blight the landscape, clog local roads and highways with traffic and destroy wildlife habitat. They say the more recent ones are nothing more than barely disguised rural subdivisions.

Critics also challenge the supposed job creation benefits of destination resorts. Despite being the resort Mecca of Oregon, Deschutes County's median wage still lags behind the state level.

But among the Deschutes County commissioners, the love of destination resorts remains younger than springtime. Anyway that's the conclusion we must draw from their remarks on the subject last week before a meeting with Richard Whitman, director of the state Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Whitman came to Bend to tell the commissioners about a couple of changes to the destination resort law that the DLCD wants the state Legislature to consider. One would generally improve protections for streams and wetlands and require that resorts reduce traffic and other impacts. The other would specifically protect the Metolius Basin area from destination resort development.

Commissioners Tammy Baney and Dennis Luke fairly recoiled in horror from these suggestions. Baney expressed alarm that the reforms might reduce local control over resort planning. After seeing the kind of "local control" Deschutes County has exercised in recent years - i.e., virtually none - a loss of local control might not be such a bad thing.

Luke, incredibly, lauded destination resorts as defenders of our natural treasures: "My argument has always been that the tourists are going to come here anyway, and I would rather they had a place where they could go to recreate and not go out into the more fragile environment."

Of course tourists who visit destination resorts are not confined there behind barbed wire and are perfectly free to despoil the "fragile environment" outside if they choose. But we'll let that pass.

Alan Unger, who has replaced Mike "Never Met a Resort I Didn't Like" Daly on the commission, had a more sensible comment: "It's really basically time to reassess [resorts]. They put the laws on the books to stimulate the economy, to allow for building of a tourism base, and I think then we ask ourselves, 'Is this what they did?'"

Unger has the right idea - it's high time the county did a candid, honest analysis of the costs and benefits of destination resorts. So here's a pat on the back for him, and a BOOT - gently applied - for Baney and Luke in the hope it will jog them into taking a fresh look at this relationship.


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