Last Resort | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Last Resort

Deschutes County Commissioners banned future destination resorts with permanent housing in most of the county, meaning Thornburgh will likely be the county's last resort of its kind in the county

The Deschutes County Board of Commissioners banned the creation of new residential destination resorts within 24 miles of Bend, bringing it in line with a state statute that lets counties ban resorts near cities with a population exceeding 100,000. Developers can still build resorts in all the places they're currently allowed to, but can only build hotels and workforce housing, not permanent housing options.

Central Oregon LandWatch, a nonprofit that advocates for conservation through Oregon's land use laws, suggested the code changes to the county. There are currently eight destination resorts in Deschutes County β€” the most in any county in Oregon. COLW has supported campaigns against destination resorts in the past over environmental impacts β€” most recently with Thornburgh Resort, which is still being developed.

click to enlarge Last Resort
Jack Harvel
The Thornburgh Resort is still being developed, but Deschutes County Commissioners barred similar resorts from existing in nearly all of the county.

"For years, the Central Oregon community has been voicing concern over the impacts that new, large-scale destination resorts would have on wildlife, water, open space, rural infrastructure and more," said COLW Rural Lands Program Manager and Staff Attorney Rory Isbell.

The 24-mile perimeter covers nearly the whole county, but there are about 30 acres in southwest Deschutes County that could still become a traditional destination resort with housing units. The code amendment only applies for applicants seeking a conceptual master plan, so it can't be retroactively applied to any resorts in the county, including Thornburgh. County Commissioners approved the code change on a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Tony DeBone as the lone dissenting vote.

"This is a legislative matter. We don't have any destination resorts that anybody is proposing. I see this application as a shortcut to stop future opportunities that may or may not be on the horizon," DeBone said at the July 24 meeting.

DeBone said the county should be cautious about water use and hopes that future resort amenities don't include golf courses, but that he's against stymieing future development. Commissioner Phil Chang, however, argued that the original intent of destination resorts was to reinvigorate distressed rural economies.

"Anyone who says that Deschutes County is economically blighted at this point in time, and needs destination resorts to attract more people here, is not really living in the year 2023. The destination resorts that we have and have approved provide a tremendous support for our community in bringing people and investment here. But the legislative intent from 1984 doesn't apply here anymore," Chang said.

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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