By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
August 10, 2005
Citizen activists crowded into the Hood River City Council chambers on Monday to advocate for limited development of the waterfront through greater resource protection.
“Cities all over the country are trying to reclaim waterfronts that have been ruined. Hood River has a chance to do it right the first time so I urge you to seize this opportunity,” said resident Warren Morgan.
He and many other residents strongly supported the city planning commission’s proposal for a uniform 100-foot setback along the shoreline. Under Goal 5 of statewide planning guidelines, human activity would be more stringently regulated within that zone to preserve vegetation and wildlife habitat.
But attorney Michael Robinson said the commission’s recommendation could jeopardize the proposed sale of Nichols Boat Works. He said The Greyling Group is in the process of purchasing the Boat Basin property but could not use it as intended if the new Goal 5 standard was adopted.
In 1998, the boat manufacturing and repair facilities on the 3-acre parcel were put on the market.
At that time, company president Bob Nichols said the sale was necessary after 59 years because of a downturn in the barge-building business.
The firm employed up to 40 people during major construction projects and about 10 workers for repair jobs.
“The setback will have the unfortunate effect of rendering properties designated for industrial and commercial uses less usable and, in some cases, may well render the property virtually undevelopable,” wrote Robinson in a letter to the council.
He declined a request for a follow-up interview about his client’s plans for the property. Robinson said it was not timely to discuss development details since negotiations were still underway.
After almost two hours of hearing from the public, the council reached for a “compromise” plan.
Their decision to minimize protection at the Marina and Boat Basin — while imposing a 75-foot setback along the majority of the Columbia River — pleased Port President Sherry Bohn.
“We’re grateful the city council listened to our concerns and took that into consideration while drafting the new Goal 5 ordinance,” said Bohn. “Together we’ll be able to protect the environment while moving forward with the waterfront master planning process.”
At the Aug. 8 hearing, Mayor Linda Rouches tried unsuccessfully to keep the conversation on resource protection.
She said the issue before the elected body dealt solely with a riparian zone and not building issues.
However, citizens continued to advocate for limiting construction with a wider setback than provided under a previous Goal 5 plan.
The custom approach taken last year by the city in cooperation with the Port of Hood River and the Department of Land Conservation and Development factored that the waterfront was largely made up of fill material with rip-rap banks.
Under an allowable exception to the standard state rule, development was prohibited within 50 feet from the top of the embankment to the Columbia between the Event Site and the Hook.
And any construction that occurred within the next 25 feet was required to have three times the allowable size in riparian enhancement.
The planning commission was asked to take a second look at that plan to ensure that it provided enough protection around the mouth of the Hood River and the riverside jetty known as the Hook.
Bohn reiterated on Monday that the port had “strong objections” to the commission’s new Goal 5 amendments.
The agency believed the custom plan was more thorough since it used a riparian inventory for protection instead of taking a “blanket” approach.
Following that study, neither the Marina nor Boat Basin were deemed to need added protection since they were both subjected to a high level of human activity and had little vegetation beyond noxious plants and weeds.
The port also felt that the commission’s Goal 5 recommendation could raise barriers to the construction of a frontage road running between Exit 63 and 64 on the north side of Interstate 84.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden recently helped score $900,000 from House and Senate transportation funds for design and engineering work related to that project.
For two hours, the council painstakingly compared the new and old Goal 5 standards in search of a way to protect resources while accommodating recreation and business use.
“They worked long and hard to reach a compromise that might not satisfy everyone but will be in the best interests of the community,” said Bob Francis, city manager.
City planning staffers are preparing a new Goal 5 ordinance to reflect these changes. Francis said that document will be presented to the council for review on Aug. 22.