In a four-hour marathon meeting Monday evening, the City of Hood River Planning Commission was unable to reach a decision on a site plan application submitted by Portland-based Naito Development LLC. The meeting was a combination extension of a prior public hearing and introduction of a Conditional Use Permit application, which the applicant was required to file for the proposed hotel, commercial building and parking lot development.
Although the waterfront project would be one of the largest developments in the city in recent years, a separate element of the proposal has attracted the majority of public interest and debate. A proposed cable park within the Nichols Boat Basin is key element to the commercial building, which is designed to overlook the basin and its activities at the south end, on property owned by Naito.
Until Monday's meeting, the planning commission was operating under the assumption that the city doesn't have jurisdiction to apply site plan and conditional use permit criteria to the cable park, because it will exist and operate in water. In short, counsel reasoned that since the boat basin is not zoned, the commission does not have specific zoning criteria to apply to the project. Furthermore, the in-water parts of the project will have to undergo a rigorous permitting process through the Division of State Lands and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Citing a variety of the city's codes and legal documents, opponents of the cable park urged the commission to reconsider its stance on the in-water project. After an evaluation by legal counsel, and the acknowledgement that the situation is ambiguous, City Attorney Dan Kearns recommended the commission take the stance that purely water uses of the basin are not subject to the city's land use regulations.
The commission acknowledged the dilemma and put the issue to a vote: either to maintain the stance that it has no jurisdiction to apply criteria to in-water developments within the city limits or assert authority over the entire project and apply on-land site plan and CUP criteria to the water-based cable park development.
In a 3-2 vote the council decided to broaden the scope of its evaluation and include the cable park in its review process.
With that decision, the commission was then obligated to hear public testimony relating specifically to the cable park, which was formerly off-limits as it was considered outside its jurisdiction.
In considering the cable park, the commission must limit its analysis of the proposal to the same specific site plan review criteria it is using for the hotel and commercial building development. Pro and con issues like general public interest, economic benefits, and "it would totally be a cool new thing for Hood River," are not part of the review criteria.
After testimony both for and against the cable park, but little discussion about the land-based elements of the application, the commission was obligated by procedure to continue the hearing until a later date. Following a public request, the written record will be left open for seven more days (until 5 p.m. April 23), after which the commission will review all material and will attempt to make a decision at a May 7 public meeting (5:30 p.m., 211 Second St.).
By law, the commission must make a decision on the application within 120 days that it was deemed complete. That date is April 23.