It wasn’t through allowing property owners to do whatever they wanted, an instructive lesson for those who seek to dismantle Oregon’s pioneering land use laws. No, Sisters changed from a town on the decline into a charming artsy Western-themed community because of central planning.
My wife and I love Sisters. We share ownership of a cabin in Camp Sherman, about fifteen minutes away. We go to Sisters a lot. It’s a great place to walk, shop, eat, and relax. Plus, they now have spiffy centrally located public bathroom facilities. What else could you want? (especially after a triple latte at one of the fine coffee houses)
Last weekend Laurel read a history of the Sisters area that was sitting on a cabin bookshelf. She learned that the developer of nearby Black Butte Ranch (a beautifully planned residential resort) wanted Sisters to be a classy place for Ranch owners and visitors to enjoy.
So, according to a history of Black Butte Ranch:
"When Brooks Resources began developing the Ranch [in the 1970s], they offered merchants in Sisters $5,000 and free architectural help to create a “theme” look to the town. The Sisters planning commission adopted an 1880’s theme, which improved the town’s attractiveness and returned it to its original roots.
The theme adoption has made Sisters a thriving community creating a unique, quaint town with excellent gift and souvenir shopping."
Currently there isn’t a garish oversized neon sign anywhere in Sisters. Nor any other obnoxious symbol of unfettered commercialism. Even the McDonalds on the edge of town (many residents wish it didn’t exist at all) melds harmoniously with the Sisters western theme.
Thus let’s tip our cowboy hats to foresighted planning. And dedicate the next line dance to Oregonians past, present, and future who recognize that places where anybody can do whatever they want with their property aren’t worth wanting compared to well-planned locales like Sisters.
(For more about why we like Sisters so much, take a look-see at “Belly dancing and fast food in Sisters”).