The Port of Hood River wants clarification on the legality of a citizen initiative to rezone industrial land at the waterfront for a public park.
At issue is the recent passage of Measure 14-16 that asks the city to adopt a policy preserving a large sector of the waterfront for a public park.
The commissioners believe that allowing property use to be regulated by popular vote could eventually overturn the existing state laws. They contend that if a ballot measure can take away the ability to develop property, it can also seek construction of green spaces.
“This is probably raising concerns with a number of agencies, from environmental to property rights, about the potential ramifications,” said Dave Harlan, port director, in a Nov. 18 briefing to board members.
The proposed area under Measure 14-16 includes all port property along the Columbia River from the riverside jetty known as the Hook to the site referred to as the Boat Basin and from the water’s edge of the Columbia River to the centerline of Portway Avenue.
“The status of this planning decision, which has been adopted by city voters instead of by the city council is unclear. The policy creates a cloud on port property and injects uncertainty in the process of city adoption of a new waterfront mixed-use zone. In filing this action, it is not the port’s intent to be adversarial,” said Jerry Jaques, port attorney.
The port board would like to have the following three questions about Measure 14-16 answered by LUBA:
Can a vote that was limited only to city residents be valid if the remaining taxpayers within the port boundaries were not given a voice?
Can the city be asked to set a policy that changes the current land-use process that is based on the findings and conclusions of law?
Is the measure constitutional since it deals with two matters instead of one? Voters were asked not only to approve the park but a condition that allowed existing buildings to remain as long as their current operation continued.
The waterfront initiative that goes into effect on Dec. 17 was brought solely before the 2,970 registered voters within the city limits. Although it passed by a 54 percent margin, the port contends that it was unfair to exclude voters from Parkdale to Wyeth who live within the port district and could be asked to pay for park improvements.
“No matter whether I go into Rosauers or Safeway, someone hits me up about not being able to vote and we have to take this action for our constituents,” said Don Hosford, port president.
The Citizens for Responsible Waterfront Development, the group that sponsored the initiative, stated at the onset of the campaign that it was directed to city voters for a valid reason. They said the city council had the final say at the local level for zoning of the waterfront and these officials were elected by city residents.
Meanwhile, Hosford said the port’s real estate committee is working to assign a valuation to between 18-20 acres that was dedicated under the initiative for a park. He said that cost should be included in any bond levy proposal to pay for development and maintenance of the park. The numbers for the property’s worth are expected to be crunched by the time that LUBA renders a decision.