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Letters - October 22

Ban big box

Among several important issues being considered by the County Planning Commission with regard to the proposed Wal-Mart superstore is that of the compatibility of their building with our community.

The City and County of Hood River decided that a single building of over 50,000 square feet is not compatible with the rest of the area. The only reason that Wal-Mart’s application was processed was that they were able to beat the passage of the big box limitation imposed by the county by a few hours — obviously aware that the wishes of the community might interfere with their plans. Just because Wal-Mart’s attentive planners and lawyers beat the deadline, does this make their proposed store “compatible”?

Testimony has also been offered that holds that Wal-Mart’s proposed superstore is an “allowed use,” based on the zoning of the property. Using that logic, could someone build an automobile factory or steel smelter on land that is zoned accordingly? Would either of these be compatible with the community?

Finally, the proposed superstore, at 185,000 square feet, is dramatically larger than its nearest neighbor of any scale, the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Forgetting other structures near the proposed store, it would dwarf the hotel in size substantially. How can a building this size be considered even remotely compatible with the surrounding area?

The serious nature of these questions, as well as the even more questionable and distressing impact of the potential alteration of the Phelps Creek watershed and the Phelps Creek channel should give the Planning Commission (as well as most citizens) pause to consider the question: do the citizens of Hood River need or want this store in their town? I strongly urge the Planning Commission to deny the Wal-Mart application for the new superstore.

Karl E. Wells

General Manager

Columbia Gorge Hotel

Hood River

‘Time-worn tactics’

This waterfront issue is a big one so it’s not surprising that the opposition is using time-worn tactics to try to sway the voters — saying it’s too expensive, too confusing and too extreme. That is a common opposition tactic, and yet the voters are smarter than that. They can see through the shower of sand being thrown into the air. Even I can see through it — and I’m only 21! Our waterfront is valuable, beautiful and very limited. As a long time Hood River resident and as a young man, I would like our waterfront protected now and for our future children. The only way to really do this is by voting “Yes” on Ballot Measure 14-16. Please join me in voting “Yes” and keeping our waterfront public.

Charlie Cannon

Hood River

High vehicle costs

On Sept. 22, the Hood River City Council unanimously approved purchasing a 2003 Ford Explorer for the building official to use to get around on the city streets. The winning bid came in at $23,000. According to www.fueleconomy.gov, this vehicle gets 14 miles per gallon in the city.

If this vehicle goes 15,000 miles in one year, it will use 1,071.43 gallons. At $2 per gallon for gas, this will cost the city $2,142.86 a year. For 10 years, at $2 per gallon, it will cost $21,428.60. With world gas reserves running low, it is unlikely that prices will remain as low as $2 per gallon for long. So, assuming that the gas prices go up to average $3 per gallon, it will cost the city $3,214.28 per year. Or $32,142.80 for 10 years to gas up this vehicle.

Another option suggested to the council at this meeting was an economy vehicle. A Toyota Prius gets 52 MPG in the city, according to www.fueleconomy.gov. Using the same figures as with the Explorer above, it would cost $5,769.20 to fuel up the Prius for 10 years at $2 per gallon or $8,653.80 for 10 years at $3 per gallon. The price on this vehicle runs about $20,000 and you get a $2,000 rebate from the IRS, making it an $18,000 purchase price.

So, the Explorer, plus the $2 per gallon fuel to make it go for 10 years will cost $44,428.60. The Prius (including the gas) will cost $23,769.20, a savings of $20,657.00

At $3 per gallon for 10 years, the Explorer costs $55,142.80, and the Prius (including the gas) costs $26,653.80, a savings of $28,489.00

In addition to costing about twice as much money, the Explorer will also spew 76 more tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (116 tons for the Explorer vs. 40 tons for the Prius).

I think a two-wheel drive economy car would have been a better choice for the building official, as we are talking about city maintained streets.

Brian Carlstrom

Hood River

No on 14-16

Ya coulda knocked me over with a feather ... The waterfront parks planning ballot measure hit my office this morning.

And as I read it, it actually suggests that the Luhr Jensen building that I have worked in for the past 25 years could be “taken” by the city, if, for whatever reasons (apparently it doesn’t matter) Luhr Jensen is no longer able to continue operations there. Wow ... does that make sense?

Tom Smith

Hood River

Against county law

When the county commission adopts an ordinance it becomes the law of the county with all the legal authority of any state or federal law. It is the responsibility of hired county personnel, appointed commissions and elected officials to ensure these laws are adhered to and enforced. In the case of the Wal-Mart superstore permit application, it appears planning department personnel are going out of their way to ensure the Hood River County Urban Growth Area Zoning Ordinance is circumvented, ignored and flat out broken. A recommendation to the County Planning Commission for approval will not only ignore the intent of the law but the letter as well.

Article 17 Chapter 17.10 states, “The height, bulk and scale of buildings shall be compatible with the site and buildings in the surrounding area.” Approval of a 185,000 square foot building will absolutely break the law. Chapter 44 Section 44.40 lists all permitted uses within or on a floodplain. Those uses are: Farm use but no buildings; Small private boat docks (and) landings for pleasure but no buildings; Parks, playgrounds but not buildings; golf courses, driving ranges but no buildings; private airports but no buildings; truck storage and rental but no buildings; temporary rock, sand and gravel storage but no buildings.

Buildings, especially four acre sized ones, and parking lots are NOT permitted uses. The county planing department is acting as if buildings and parking lots are a permitted use. This is a direct violation of the law.

In addition the ordinance states “no adverse effect” on downstream properties by any development on floodplain ground. The developer for Wal-Mart proposes to increase the volume of water, the cubic feet per second, going under Country Club Road downstream onto the Columbia Gorge Hotel property. Their rationale is the hotel property already floods just as the proposed site does, therefore additional water at faster speeds is not going to increase flooding on the hotel property anyway. The proposed mitigation of flooding on the site property will eliminate flood water storage on their own property thus eliminating the floodplain.

If hired planning department directors and planners cannot enforce the law, they should be replaced with people who can. If planning department commissioners can not enforce the law, they should be removed from the commission. If county commissioners cannot enforce the law, they should be recalled.

The application for development of a Wal-Mart superstore and parking lot does not and cannot meet either the intent or letter of Hood River County law. If county law is to be valid and enforceable this permit must not be granted.

Gary J. Fields

Hood River

Guard due process

The following is in answer to accusations and questions by Laurent Picard’s letter “Partisan Agenda” on Oct. 18, 2003. Of course, Mr. Picard, you would think points in opposition to your initiative would be disrespectful. We are partisan on issues that are counter to “due process” per our Mission Statement. Our utmost goal at RTRG is to ensure accuracy, and if an accurate point is emphasized it is not necessarily uncivil.

Misguided: the Port of Hood River built and owns the waterfront area except parcels it has sold. The Port has no approved plan other than seeking industrial and commercial activity per its current zoning. All other plans are purely conceptual at this point. There is no plan to line the waterfront with five-story hotels and condos. That is your “exaggeration.” The port could have leased the Kearny building to an industrial client for 20 or 30 years but they chose not to. Instead they continue to try and “develop” a plan of operation that will fit a new mixed-use model, be fiscally sustainable to City, Port and taxpayers plus fit all constituencies in the county. Your initiative to have the City force a zoning rule on property the owner objects to has legal and financial consequences that are considerable. You seem to ignore all of that, which brings up anarchy. Webster says: absence of government. You are attempting to go around governmental due process designed to protect the landowner. We think you have been misguided.

Parks — World Book Dictionary: land set apart for the pleasure of the public, open land parks, amusement parks, children’s parks, industrial parks, retail parks, includes parklike and parkway.

The port has provided the marina and Marine Park, beaches, Event Site, Hook, paths, Spit, all the recreation entries to the river. After all it has done to date the Port is conceptually proposing a park setback of 75 feet from the river’s edge the full length of the waterfront totaling about five acres.

The balance of the developable land will have two to five acres of open park and the rest built out in a park-like setting. This is more park than your “narrow focus” on Lot 6. There is need for mixed use zoning, with latitude, because you cannot pre-plan someone else’s business or entrepreneurial pursuits. You can set standards. After the land is rezoned then actual siting process and adherence to design standards began when someone submits a plan. That someone could be you, Mr. Picard. I offer a very partisan suggestion: support the Port and City joint effort and you will see a result that all Hood River County can be proud of.

Felix Tomlinson, Trustees Chair

Results Through Representative Government

Hood River

Yes on 14-16

It seems one side can say just about anything in a political campaign these days and get away with it. Even the mud slinging need not be based on fact!

It continues to amaze me that some groups think that the public is so gullible and stupid and that they will believe everything they print.

Does the public really believe that by preserving park space on the waterfront that their taxes could go up by 50 percent, even when they have read that private citizens are willing to pay for a park? Not to mention those who are willing to work to obtain some of the many grants available to pay for such parks. If they were to buy into this argument we would not have the Children’s Park nor would we have the fabulous new library.

Do they know that the Port of the Dalles just received over $1 million in a grant for a riverfront trail? Or, that the City of Mosier received $500,000 in July of this year for their waterfront improvements? Or, that Cascade Locks is getting another $30,000 for their 14 acre Marina Park?

Does the public really believe that approximately 15 acres (the Event site at 3.5 acres and 6 acre park on lot 6, and the area known as the Hook, about 5 acres) in a development area of approximately 45 acres is too much to ask for water access, park space and recreation? Recreation and tourism brought almost $70 million into our county last year! Keep in mind this “open space” should serve the entire community, walkers, bikers, fishermen, kayakers, as well as windsurfers and kiteboarders. But of course it should also improve our economy.

If our “elected officials” really want to help the local economy, and I believe they do, they should understand the need to plant the “carrots” that we need to draw tourists and that those improvements will do more for our citizens than condos or retail space built on the valuable waterfront land. Condos and retail stores can and should be built but build them anywhere but on the waterfront.

In fact I would even challenge the voters that if the public, port, city and parks department, even Gorge Games, can’t fund or start a successful development on a park on lot 6 in five years, then take it back!

Please vote YES on measures 14-16.

Bill Morrissey

Hood River

No on 14-15, 14-16

Bob Montgomery is right. The people have already spoken when they put their commissioners into office.

If the people don’t like what their representatives are doing they can appeal. So don’t add to the commissioners’ headaches by taking away their responsibilities.

Vote no on both 14-15 and 14-16.

Peter von Oppel

Hood River

Yes on 14-15

Why did we move to the Hood River valley 22 years ago? Because it was the kind of place that we wanted to raise our child ... and did. Because it was a place that we could truly maintain our own identities and not get “lost in the crowd” of big city living. Because we could enjoy nature’s offerings on the northeast side of Mt. Hood; quite a contrast to the more developed areas of the mountain.

We now have a wonderful opportunity to have a greater say regarding future development and the very important protection of watersheds in our (yes, OUR) Hood River County forestlands. Voting is a privilege.

Please join us in voting “YES” for the Forestland Water Resource Initiative, Measure 14-15.

Sue and Pat Hartford

Hood River

Supporting troops?

It should be noted on Oct. 17, 2003, Rep. Greg Walden along with 210 other Republican representatives, voted against amendment HR3289, which would have increased basic military pay and given those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan a $1,500 bonus in FY 2004.

With low morale, thousands wounded, 100 deaths (last weekend’s count), suicides, lack of protective gear, and punishment for speaking out, it’s no wonder the majority of those serving now will not be re-enlisting.

It’s the same ol’ story, just a different part of the world, with different “bad guys,” and the usual whitewash. When will they ever learn?

Linda Short

Hood River

Go forth, Port

The latest “thorn in the side” creation of “wind shadows” can be likened to the spotted owl, which is akin to the “monkey wrench.”

For we find in the oldest book known to man, the following bit of wisdom: “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound therof, but can’t tell whence it cometh and wither it goeth ...”

And no scientific study can ever prove this author’s wisdom wrong.

Go forth Port!

Alan Winans

Hood River

No on measures

I have some serious concerns regarding the initiatives proposed for a vote on Nov. 4.

The Port of Hood River includes everyone in the county except Cascade Locks. Since I live outside the city limits, I have no vote on the initative regarding land use on the Port.

The result will be less than 50 percent of the Port population making this decison. If this initative passes, it probably won’t pass the test of legality and the taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a costly appeal.

Regarding the initiative on developments on forest lands: whatever happened to our democratic form of representative government? If this were to pass the taxpayers would have to pay for each costly election. Again, this will probably result in a costly appeal that the taxpayers will pay for.

It appears that the proponents don’t think our representatives are qualified to make decisions and that every citizen is better qualified. I see a danger that a dedicated small minority could get something passed that the majority wouldn’t favor simply because of voter apathy.

Both of these insitatives are seriously flawed. I urge you to join with me in voting no.

Chuck Bowe

Hood River

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