A Bremerton, Wash., man believes that he is championing the rights of Hood River citizens in his quest to stop “piecemeal permitting” within the city limits.
Paul Scheyer has accused the City Council of acting as a “hanging judge and jury” during his appeal hearing on Monday. Scheyer lost his protest against the Planning Commission’s approval of Holstein’s Coffee Company’s new enterprise at the corner of Seventh and Oak streets.
“He (Scheyer) certainly has the right to make sure the city is doing what the city should do, but it appears that he challenges everything and certainly drives up the costs for everyone involved,” said Tony Motschenbacher, attorney for Holstein’s.
For the second time within a year, Scheyer could take his case against a downtown development before the state Land Use Board of Appeals. Last fall he lost another fight to block the opening of the Hood River Bed and Breakfast at 918 Oak St. However, that victory was bittersweet for co-owner/manager Jane Nichols who was forced to pay $8,000 in attorney fees.
“There wasn’t anything that I was proposing that was going to be a detriment to the neighborhood, but I’m still paying off the legal bills and I just don’t understand,” said Nichols.
Scheyer, who also routinely takes on authorities in his hometown, said he is simply trying to ensure that the public process is not circumvented by government agencies.
“Anyone who gets in the way of any of our rights is an enemy, I don’t like the ‘good old boy’ business, I take offense, you’ve got to treat everyone the same and if you don’t like the rules, you change the rules, you just don’t look the other way,” he said.
Scheyer said he is not finished with his challenge against the bed and breakfast. He said the business is housing overnight guests without a proper building permit — an allegation that both the city and Nichols deny. In fact, Nichols said she has gone beyond the requirements for a two-bedroom facility by volunteering for a safety inspection and attending a health and safety class.
Scheyer is also scrutinizing local entrepreneur Maui Meyer’s plans to build an upscale restaurant and retail outlet at First and Oak streets, next to the existing Holstein’s facility. With all three applications, Scheyer has accused the city of procedural violations in its permitting process. He has now also included the City Council in that complaint, claiming that his “due process” rights were flouted during the June 23 hearing.
“They don’t even have a clue about how to run a fair hearing and that’s an even bigger issue than the appeal itself,” he said.
Scheyer said the city refused to grant his request for a continuance of the proceedings — and then restricted the amount of time that he and his daughter, Julie Furnanz of Portland, were allowed to speak. Although neither Scheyer or Furnanz reside in Hood River, he owns a boat house on the waterfront and she is the owner of a local apartment complex and a house. Cascadia Apartments are located just north of the former Church of Scientology building purchased by Holstein’s for office space and a new coffee shop.
Mayor Paul Cummings expressed surprise about his new title as a “hanging judge.” He said that Scheyer’s remark seemed unfounded since he had granted the appellant twice the amount of speaking time given to staff — and had even allowed him to raise arguments about issues that were not under consideration.
“I’ve been called a lot of names in my life but this is the first time I’ve been called a hanging judge and I’m at a loss to understand exactly where that is coming from,” Cummings said.
City attorney Alexandra Sosknowski told the council on Monday that, in her legal opinion, Scheyer’s request to stop the proceedings was not appropriate. She said the appeal hearing required that a decision be based only on the facts already in the record. She said the reasoning behind a continuance was to allow time for new evidence in a case to be gathered and presented.
Scheyer said in all three cases the city has not followed the letter of the law when issuing permits. For example, he said Holstein’s owners Cory Bernard and Brian Graves are being granted “illegal” use of the patio for their coffee shop because their landscaping plan is incomplete.
Cindy Walbridge, city planning director, said that 750 square feet of the property, which includes an existing building and patio, has been reserved for landscaping. She said Bernard and Graves have already been briefed about the screening that will be expected once the interior remodeling is completed.
“They knew what the conditions of approval would be from the moment they walked through the door,” Walbridge said.
Motschenbacher said his clients have every intent of designing a project that complements the city.
“We are well aware of our landscaping requirements but it’s the last thing you do, you can’t put in a bed of roses only to have construction workers walk on them,” he said.
Scheyer said if landscaping details are not drawn out before building starts, it closes down an opportunity for the public to comment on the plan.
“The public should be able to look at the landscaping plan, otherwise it’s done someplace in the back room,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bernard and Graves are gearing up for the next potential legal challenge and remain optimistic about the success of their new venture.
“We have been delayed but we are very excited about the project and we plan to be in full compliance about our landscaping, meet all the requirements of the city, and move forward soon,” Bernard said.