Special report: Fast-growing Sisters faces challenges

No signs growth will slow any time soon

Sisters deals with growth challenge

SISTERS, Ore. - Population growth is nothing new to Central Oregon, and Sisters is one of the places feeling those growing pains. The city is home to more than 2,700 people -- and counting.

In the past 18 years, the city has seen roughly 1,800 more people move into the city limits. That's 184% growth.

That number blows away the statewide and national average.

“It’s a desirable place to be, and growth is something that is going to continue,” said Sisters City Manager Cory Misley.

While the city of Sisters is not alone with the growth it’s seeing, the small town does have its own unique set of challenges.

“We need more multifamily housing, but we certainly don’t want to overload our stock with it as well," said Sisters Community Development Director Patrick Davenport. "So we’re trying to find that right balance, and some days it's easier than others to do that.”

Misley said finding that balance is something the city will have to grapple with.

“One of my biggest concerns, though, that I’m sure many here share, is making sure that Sisters does not lose its character and its small-town charm,” Misley said.

The reality is, Sisters is running out of land to build on within the city's urban growth boundary.

And the city's lacking in middle-class and affordable housing options. 

“We need more single-family homes because of the demographic of the people moving to Sisters," Davenport said. "But what we are conversely hearing from is that we also need more multifamily housing and rental housing, as well, from employers. Local employers are indicating that they’re having trouble filling positions because it's hard to find a place to live here.”

Now the city’s facing this reality: It will need to find a way to add 1,057 new housing units in the next 20 years, according to growth projections.

“We need to have those conversations. Is it more density? Is it going higher? Is it smaller lot sizes? I mean, there's a lot of options on the table," Misley said. "It's just a matter of looking at all of these changes have some pros and some cons.”

Ultimately, these conversations will continue with the city council as the work goes on to encourage growth within the UGB, as well as provide a sufficient amount of land zoned as residential to keep up with growth, among other policies.

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