City sued over Naito appeal fees

Two individuals and a local nonprofit — Friends of the Hood River Waterfront — have filed suit against the City of Hood River over the proposed Naito Landing project, citing a constitutional right to judicial access unimpeded by “unreasonable” fees, under the “Justice Without Purchase Clause” of the Oregon Constitution.

At issue are the required filing fees tied to the submission of an appeal to local land use decisions. In particular, Richard Derek Bell and Corie Lahr (plaintiffs along with FHRW) are asserting that the City’s decision requiring the appellant to pay a fee equal to the amount of the application fee for a land use project is “not reasonable.”

The case is tied to the proposed Naito Development of a hotel and cable park at the Nichols boat basin. Fees to appeal either portion of that two-pronged land use decision would be $5,151 for the hotel component and $2,258 for the cable park — the same amount Naito Development will have paid to submit the applications.

According to Mayor Arthur Babitz, Brent Foster, on behalf of the plaintiffs, appeared at the last Hood River City Council meeting to protest the appeal fees, outside of the established agenda.

The councilors agreed to respond to the request through a normal review process, directing staff to research the facts of the issue and to present a report at the next city council meeting on May 14.

“We did what we always do — We said, ‘That sounds like something we need to look into ... we need to have our staff look at the facts and make a recommendation — to hear both sides,’” Babitz said.

“As general policy, when a citizen brings the council a non-agenda item for consideration, we don’t take action until our staff has had adequate time to research it and suggest some options. We need to verify the facts and hear all sides. In this case we determined the calendar would permit us to hear a staff report and make a fee waiver decision at our May 14th meeting, still leaving them time to file an appeal if they so desire,” said Babitz.

The suit against the city has been filed prior to the city’s scheduled response to Foster’s request, due at next city council meeting on May 14. Foster was not reached for comment by press time.

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