In politics, going along to get along is often the easiest and safest course. Nowhere is that more true than within the cozy confines of the Deschutes County Commission, where there are only three members and anybody who doesn't go along is a conspicuous minority of one. Last week Commissioner Tammy Baney refused to go along with her colleagues, Alan Unger and Dennis Luke, in speeding the approval of the county's new destination resort map. The obstacle, in Baney's mind, was a special provision involving the Cyrus family's Aspen Lakes development.
The Aspen Lakes story has more twists and tangles than a plate of spaghetti, but the crux of it is that the Cyrus family wants to turn their high-end golf course subdivision near Sisters into a destination resort. That would involve expanding it by 500 acres, building 500 more homes and adding nine more holes of golf.
But first the Cyruses need to get the county to include Aspen Lakes in the new destination resort map, and they've been lobbying hard to make that happen. In the spring of 2009, Keith Cyrus, a member of the county planning commission, helped persuade his colleagues to pass a special provision allowing "cluster subdivisions" like Aspen Lakes to become resorts.
And this June the Cyruses got the county commissioners to approve a loophole that would have allowed the resort - before quickly repealing it when it became apparent that maybe they hadn't followed the legal requirements for public comment.
Flash forward to July 13, when the county commission again resumed the interminable destination resort debate. Baney moved to have the special Aspen Lakes loophole removed from the destination resort rules; Unger and Luke refused to agree. Then Unger proposed okaying the new rules with the Cyrus provision included; he couldn't get Baney or Luke to second his motion. So the commission is at an impasse, at least until it takes up the issue again on July 28.
Baney voted for the Cyrus loophole back in June, but she appears to have seen the light since then. It would have been easy for her to quietly go along with her colleagues again and let the loophole remain; that would have allowed the commissioners to immediately adopt the new resort map by unanimous vote, saving them all a lot of time and hassle. Instead, to her credit, Baney did the right thing and said no.
We've raised questions before about the ethicalness of the Cyrus family's lobbying campaign for their resort, especially the role of Keith Cyrus vis--vis the planning commission. But even if no ethical issues were involved, the Aspen Lakes exemption would be bad law and bad precedent. It's a blatant example of special-interest policy-making on behalf of one well-connected local family.
We're hoping Unger and Luke will go along with Baney on July 28, remove the Cyrus loophole from the rules and conclude the long-drawn-out process of approving a new destination resort map. Meanwhile, Baney receives the GLASS SLIPPER for having the guts to stand alone when it counted.