They think the Cyruses are such wonderful people, in fact, that they keep trying to rewrite the laws for them.
The Cyruses, whose ancestors came to Central Oregon in pioneer days, have been hoping for years to turn their Aspen Lakes subdivision near Sisters into a destination resort. Last year, the Deschutes County Commission fiddled around with the county's new destination resort map to create a special loophole that would allow them to do it.
That didn't sit well with neighboring property owners or with Central Oregon LandWatch, which decided to fight the county's action before the Land Use Board of Appeals on the grounds that it violated state land use laws. We agreed.
Now the Cyruses have come up with a different - and much more ambitious - plan. They're talking about developing a 1,500-acre parcel they own with as many as 495 homes, 100 RV spaces and various recreational facilities. The sweetener in the deal is conservation protection for 380 acres plus payments to local governments, non-profit agencies and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Enter, in the guise of the Lone Ranger riding to the rescue, one Gene Whisnant, state representative for southern Deschutes County. Whisnant also thinks the Cyruses are swell people. And because they're so terrific, he's willing to sponsor a bill that would exempt their destination resort plan from state law.
(To be fair, the love affair our local elected officials have with the Cyrus family appears to be bipartisan. Former Rep. Judy Stiegler was going to sponsor the bill, but she didn't get re-elected.)
The environmental, traffic, fire safety and other impacts of the Cyruses' proposed development obviously would be enormous, and it's impossible for us to see how doing an end run around the land use review process could be justified.
It's equally hard to justify any legislation so blatantly custom-tailored to benefit one specific family. Yes, they're good folks - but there are a lot of other good folks out there. And yes, they're having financial difficulties (the company that owns Aspen Lakes recently filed for Chapter 11) but so are a lot of people, especially in the real estate and development business. There's rumored to be a recession on.
Apparently Whisnant is having a tough time justifying the Cyrus Family Protection Bill himself. Although he's agreed to put his name on it, he reportedly says he's not sure if he'll actively work for it. That's a remarkably lame position. If the bill's not worth pushing, Gene, why introduce it in the first place?
The Deschutes County Commission's tweaking of the law to benefit the Cyruses was indefensible, and Whisnant's bill, if anything, is much worse in terms of both the damage it might do and the terrible precedent it would set. We hope Whisnant will re-think the issue and decide not to introduce it. To help his thought process along, we're giving it THE BOOT.