City rescinds Spit fee challenge

June 25, 2005

The City of Hood River has decided against challenging a new charge for parking at a popular kiteboarding site.

Bob Francis, city manager, has okayed the $2 fee levied by the Port of Hood River for use of the Spit. In May he had informed the port that a commercial charge on land zoned for industrial use was illegal.

However, the port claimed the re-grading and re-gravelling of the river dike was just routine maintenance. The small fee will allow the agency to recoup the $18,000 it spent for the recent work — and the ongoing cost of maintaining the grounds and portable toilets.

The port has already removed rootballs from two Locust trees taken off the lot near the sandbar at the confluence of the Hood and Columbia rivers. Francis had protested a contractor dumping the natural debris over the embankment. He also contended that it could be a violation of riparian zone protection for the trees to be removed at all. However, the city has agreed that the port should destroy blackberry bushes on the property.

While the city has made some concessions, Francis is standing firm on his requirement that the port change the zoning on the property. He said the improvement of the lot has brought to light the fact that recreational activities are not allowed under the current industrial zoning. Plus, because the port has widened the driveway to accommodate emergency vehicles and shifted the gravel to increase the number of parking spaces, he wants a formal site review performed. That review could end up requiring the port to pave the lot in order to meet city standards.

“Port staff and city staff are working together to come to terms on whatever it takes to maintain the use out there,” said Port President Sherry Bohn, who declined to provide further details on these discussions.

Francis has given the port until Aug. 1 to apply for the zoning change or face possible enforcement action. He said the city does not want to interfere with business during the peak tourist months, so that process can take place during the winter. Francis has also requested the port pursue a zoning change for the riverside jetty known as the Hook, which also is zoned for industrial use.

“The main focus of the city is to let the port know that an activity is taking place that should not be taking place. This isn’t being done as an adversarial thing, it’s being done because the property has to be properly zoned for the port just as it would be for anybody else,” said Francis.

He said because the driveway to the Spit has been widened there is now a speeding problem in the area. Although the posted speed is 25 miles per hour, he said the city is getting complaints of motorists traveling up to 60 miles per hour. He is concerned about the potential for a serious accident either to a pedestrian or another motorist.

Bohn said the port will discuss all of the involved issues during its ongoing conversation with the city. The port has already expressed concerns about paving the land because of the involved costs. Officials also anticipate a potential problem in gaining approval from federal agencies to place an impervious surface so close to rivers with endangered fish runs.

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