Port rejects Xventure

August 20, 2005

The Hood River Port Commission rejected on Tuesday the opportunity to host an adventure destination resort that would have placed a 40,000-square foot indoor water park, 250-room hotel and a 10-plus acre park on Hood River’s waterfront.

The commissioners decided to pass on the proposed Xventure Resort during a work and executive session after hours of discussing its prospects.

“This would have been in the complete opposite direction of our master plan,” said Mike Doke, spokesman for the Hood River Port Commission. “It just didn’t fit into the community.”

Doke said the port decided early this spring to reserve that land for light industrial purposes, for local businesses that will soon outgrow their current sites and require more.

“The vision of what to do with the waterfront is to retain these growing companies that would otherwise leave if they ran out of land,” Doke said.

Xventure Resort co-founder Peg Lalor had argued at an Aug. 10 meeting that the resort would contribute 350 jobs to Hood River and an uncountable number of indirect jobs.

The resort, she claimed, according to a port commission memo, would have beckoned tourists from a 200 to 400-mile radius of Hood River – from northern California, the Oregon Coast, British Columbia and the Tri-Cities.

The estimated $50 million-project would have bolstered the local economy, an Xventure press release states, by increasing room rates and motel stays.

“This is the kind of opportunity that reinforces The Gorge identity in the most positive of ways,” said Dick Swart, a Hood River resident. “And not just for the immediate appeal of the jobs created and the money spent in the community. The very nature of the sports attractions to be offered will draw younger and fit business owners, professionals and technically-skilled workers to the Gorge.”

Even if the destination resort was consistent with the port’s master plan for the waterfront, creating a legitimate proposal for Xventure officials to approve in the given time would have been difficult.

According to the Request for Proposal (RFP) on Xventure.com, the deadline for submitting a proposal to host such a resort is Sept. 15.

And by that date, the port would have had to make arrangements to clear the “30 contiguous acres of land located in the Columbia River Gorge…” the RFP requested.

This would have involved, Doke said, demolishing the Expo Center, the United Telephone Service building, fixing the wastewater treatment facility, acquiring eight acres of land the port does not own and changing the zoning of the land – all property south of Portway Avenue, east of North Eighth – from light industrial to commercial.

“The time frame,” said commission chair Sherry Bohn. “It was a very quick response time. In order to move the project forward those are the things that would have had to be done. And it would have to be done in a month or we would have had to request an extension of the RFP.”

Lalor said she and her fellow partners devised the Xventure Resort concept after the Port and City of Hood River abandoned Ordinance 1851, which allowed a mixture of commercial and industrial zoning at the waterfront.

“This project was originally developed with our eyes on The Dalles because The Port of Hood River was moving with a different development strategy,” she said. “Several months ago they pulled back from Ordinance 1851 with the City because they wanted to create more jobs...

We created a short time frame to let them know we had a funded, viable project which has been studied and is ready to move forward should there be interest and property available that suits the plan. We wanted to give them an opportunity to think about it, talk to the community and let us know whether it is something they would consider.”

In the last year, the port commission has rejected a stroller company’s offer to set up shop on the waterfront, Luhr Jensen announced its plans to shift most of its operations to China and Homeshield announced it was moving to The Dalles because it could no longer afford Hood River property.

“We think Hood River would miss out on the opportunity to have year-round healthy activities that local families can enjoy as well as conference, party and meeting rooms for local use while attracting new visitors,” Lalor said. “Downtown business owners would miss out on significant regional branding and marketing and the opportunity to attract shoulder and winter season customers increasing the viability of their businesses.”

On the day she was sworn in as a port commissioner seven summers ago, Lalor joined Bob Nichols and commission president Nancy Moller to reject an addendum that would have given Stevenson Ranch an additional four years to build its proposed 75-unit RiverFront Lodge waterfront hotel.

The 3-2 vote virtually blacked out the vision of Tom Stevenson, who was so sure the addendum would pass, his officials showed up to the late June port meeting with a $30,000-check, the first of three payments to the port.

The decision came seven days after the port commission – with different commissioners – gave preliminary approval to D.M. Stevenson’s addendum.

“We are stunned by the shortsightedness of the new port commission to overturn an agreement that nine different port commissioners have negotiated with D.M. Stevenson Ranch for the past four years,” Stevenson had told the Hood River News following that meeting.

Page 12 of the Xventure Resorts proposal, entitled “Team of Experts,” includes the names of 18 people, followed by one or two words that describe that person’s credentials.

These 18 people are divided into four different groups with subheads: “Leadership Consultants,” “Park Attraction Consultants,” “Health Consultants” and “Sport and Designer Consultants.”

The “Team of Experts” includes Lyle Nelson, “author, 4-time Olympian” and Dr. Steven Pratt, M.D.

The “Sport and Designer Consultants” category, however, might be the most impressive. It includes the names of icons like skateboarder Tony Hawk, big wall climber Lynn Hill and three-time world kayak freestyle champion Eric Jackson.

The Hood River News e-mailed Jackson regarding his role with Xventure Resorts.

His reply: “I have never heard of Xventure Resorts...”

A managing associate of Gerry Lopez Surfboards, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she had no knowledge of Xventure Resort of Lopez’s involvement with it.

Attempts to contact other “consultants” were unsuccessful as of press time.

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