SISTERS, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners are getting closer to giving final approval to a Sisters man who has tried for years to be allowed to hold weddings on his farm. Deschutes County's Community Development Department has recommended granting John Shepherd's request to have his property designated as a private park, with conditions. Shepherd would be required to get necessary permits, have an addquate septic system and appropriate parking, among other things.
Shepherd tells KBND News Paul Dewey with Central Oregon LandWatch is challenging the recommendation. "They approved the private park for the purpose of holding special events, but knowing that Central Oregon LandWatch wants to challenge it, they agreed to hold a speedy hearing," Shepherd said. I testified and the Development Department testified about why they approved it, and Paul Dewey was allowed to explain his objections and concerns." However, Shepherd says Commissioners didn't hear anything new at Monday's meeting. "[Paul Dewey] thinks weddings are mainly ceremonial and he doesn't appreciate that following the 15-minute ceremony, they have a 6- to 8-hour reception. But that's recreation and we're saying that's why we're well suited for a private park."
Commissioners will continue to accept written testimony on the issue for another week, then Shepherd will have a chance to respond. "We're still very confident we're going to get approved. The Community Development Departmetn reviewed this extensively and looked at the laws. But Commissioners need to go through the legal process before this is all wrapped up," says Shepherd. A final decision regarding his private park application is expected from Commissioners in early April.