Commission approves Naito ‘upland’ project

Cable park application withdrawn from Corps, for now

On May 7, the Hood River City Planning Commission reviewed a detailed staff report on the Naito Development site plan and conditional use permit application for an 88-room Hampton Inn and adjacent commercial-retail building. The project’s two buildings would be built on riverfront property near the Sandbar – on the former Nichols Boat Works industrial site.

Now referred to as the “upland” portion of a larger project which may later include a water-based cable park recreation facility, the two building components met with a few minor condition changes prior to receiving approval from four out of five commissioners.

The Naito Development cable park facility has been portioned off into a second application process.

Mark VanderZanden, architect on the Naito project, confirmed that the regulatory permit application previously filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the cable park facility has been withdrawn at this time.

“The Corps application for the water use may go back in later this summer,” said VanderZanden.

While the upland project first-round approval is a step on the path to development, hurdles still exist for the hotel and commercial project components. The first issue will be a potential appeal against the planning commission’s approval.

Even if the upland project were to advance to city council for approval without any intervening appeals, it also must still first receive Corps approval of a pending real estate division’s letter of consent.

The planning commission deliberated on several specific points of the proposal and did offer to add some new conditions to the staff recommendations, including the following (among others):

n City requested, and developers agreed to provide, a waterside pathway in place of the previously proposed path sited behind the commercial building.

n If the Army Corps were to deny the proposed waterfront pathway in front of the building, over which they have jurisdiction, an alternate pathway would be created across the commercial building’s decking, with appropriate signage and access as to encourage full public use.

n If the Corps requires an increased set-back based on their flowage easement, the developers must return to the commission for a new qausi-judicial review.

n The minimum number of parking spaces for the hotel and commercial buildings was set at 176.

Commissioner Nikki Holatz was the lone dissenter on the planning commission. She expressed concerns over a lack of clarity on the impacts of the retail building’s proposed pylons, decking and structural encroachment into an Army Corps of Engineer’s demarcated “flowage easement” — which is the right retained by the Corps to flood certain lands in support of dam operations. She also pointed out that the development is placed within the “Ordinary High Water” mark for the Columbia, which may impose other regulatory issues if the project falls within the legal definition of the “waters of the state.”

Holatz expressed concern over potential negative effects on basin water and over whose zoning regulations would apply to those portions of the building that could be engaged in water contact during a high-water event.

The News was unable to obtain clarification from agencies regulating Oregon waters by press time on the question of the OHW mark designation.

According to Amanda Dethman, realty specialist at the Corps, “Naito developers must adhere to a set of strict guidelines when placing a building in a flowage easement.”

The Corps may respond to that application with a denial, a consent with special conditions or a consent as proposed. Dethman indicated that the Corps has already been working with the developers to ensure those guidelines are met.

After Naito meets the guidelines of the Corps on flowage easement construction, the proposal would then undergo a full NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review — a rigorous, multi-agency, environmental impact assessment.

The Naito developers in attendance at the commission meeting clarified that if they were required by the Corps to move the retail facility further back from the flowage easement line, they would shrink the building size rather than reposition it to avoid a change in parking and traffic designs.

Earlier in the meeting, Attorney Ralph Bloemers from the CRAG Law Center argued to reopen the public record for inclusion of additional studies and data on fish and water concerns at the proposed site.

As the stand-in representative for the nonprofit opposition group Friends of the Waterfront, Bloemers brought along 16 additional reports and video footage for proposed inclusion. Kearns challenged Bloemers on the applicability of the information, given that the application under consideration was tied to the upland portion of development and not the cable park.

Kearns then cited legal standards which would necessitate a reopening of the record and indicated that Bloemers’ arguments did not meet those standards. The public record remained closed and no new data was incorporated.

Hood River City Planner Cindy Walbridge will be issuing the revised planning commission decision with the approved revisions and additions to conditions. The commissioners agreed to allow Chair Laurie Stephens to sign off on the decision without further review.

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