By RICHARD LEE
Special to the News
What are the results of circumventing the established local governing authority in an attempt to second guess those who we, as a community, have voted in to make land use decisions on our behalf? The answer is straightforward enough: litigation funded by everyone.
Ballot Measures 14-15 and 14-16 are going to ask you to do just that; circumvent and side step the representative process in an effort to appease a small group dedicated to special interest and self-seeking prerogatives.
With regard to 14-16, a local special interest group, Citizens for “Responsible” Waterfront Development, would like to force the Port of Hood River into rezoning the entire waterfront into a park.
The exact language from the initiative reads, “The portion of the Columbia River waterfront designated for preservation (park purposes) includes all Port of Hood River property along the Columbia River from and including the property known as the “Hook” to the property known as the “Boat Basin” and from the Columbia River water’s edge to the centerline of Portway Avenue.”
As I have recently discovered, the re-zoning process for public property, or any property for that manner, is very meticulous, requiring oversight from multiple agencies backed by professional staffs. The proponents of 14-16 apparently believe these detailed steps are pointless and without significance. In what appears to be a strong-arm tactic at blocking mixed use development of the waterfront, proponents of 14-16 are prepared to commit a takings issue of Port property while in the process completely disregarding the impact on the community as a whole, totally ignoring the financial ramifications on individual citizens, and failing to consider the long term economic results as they relate to the entire county. Signature gathering efforts were successful through deceiving signers by convincing them the Port wanted to line the waterfront with hotels. With no master plan, how is it possible for hotels to line the waterfront? The developer the Port is dealing with has said he was not interested in even entertaining the concept of a hotel on the waterfront for a bevy of reasons; the chief one being it would not be a wise investment for the developer or the Port. In terms of park space on the waterfront, the conceptual design the Port is currently working with shows a river walk down the entire length of the waterfront and a separate two to five acre park. The Port Director has made it quite clear in the event the City of Hood River attempts to enforce this taking of Port property, the Port will litigate on behalf of all its constituents. Ample case-law demonstrates the Port has a winnable case. Of course, the cash-strapped City of Hood River will be forced to spend money on attorneys and court costs regardless if it wants to or not. The alternative is quite simple and much more thoughtful; vote no on 14-16 and allow the City to continue to work with the Port to make something positive happen on the waterfront for all citizens, city and county.
Measure 14-15, on the other hand, is strikingly similar to 14-16 in terms of the end result. If passed, 14-15 requires voter approval of residential developments that cumulatively total 25 or more residential units or overnight accommodation units if the development is to occur on certain forest lands. In an attempt to appeal to voters’ emotions, this endeavor attempts to “save” the water supply from supposed contamination. I guess a development of 24 units is perfectly fine and requires no “voter approval.” How can the water supply be in jeopardy based on an idea? Mt. Hood Meadows has yet to submit any formal plans for expansion of Cooper Spur. No one can answer accurately what the definitive boundaries of the Crystal Springs watershed are. As with the waterfront initiative, the county initiative attempts to sidestep local governing authority by tapping into speculative emotionalism which, if passed, will result in litigation paid for by everyone with case law demonstrating a repudiation of the measure to begin with. Those who sponsored this initiative, one who is a city planning commissioner of all things, would have you believe that the current process of approving and disapproving development on county property is not applicable. What position will the county taxpayers be in when a developer has stepped through the recognized process of oversight just to be second guessed by whoever decides to vote? Once again, unnecessary litigation with inevitable penalties will result from this action. Measure 14-15 is born of uninformed, panic-stricken citizens, with a mission to stifle expansion of any type by Mt. Hood Meadows. Rather than confront Meadows directly on this issue, proponents of 14-15 want county taxpayers to pick the fight for them.
Regardless of how you may feel about the direction of the Port of Hood River and regardless of how you may feel about Mt. Hood Meadows, one thing is certain: land use zoning and unrecognized second guessing by citizen initiative will result in a careless spending of the taxpayer dollar likely resulting in court rulings striking the initiatives down.
The proponents of both of these measures mock the citizen initiative process, a process put in place for informed and educated voters to correct blatant government neglect. When you step back from both of these issues and gather the facts and listen to those who are in a position to know those facts, you will discover a side of the coin that proponents of these measures do not want you to see. Proponents of both of these measures have stooped to misrepresent the facts, extort the emotions of petitioner signers, and attempted to silence any opposition by stacking testimony and bullying thoughtful argumentation. Voting no on both 14-15 and 14-16 will send a clear and strong message to those who may attempt future measures based on self serving special interests.
That message is this: The citizens of Hood River County recognize and endorse representative government elected by the people to govern the affairs of the citizens by due process and thoughtful representation. Citizens of Hood River County as a whole want to be for a positive vision and positive actions on their behalf rather than perpetuating an environment of negativism.
Richard Lee of Hood River is a member of the group Results Through Representative Government.