Two large projects at opposite ends of the city were the focus of attention at the Hood River City Council meeting on April 8.
The Naito waterfront hotel and commercial building project northeast of exit 63 and the road realignment project near exit 62 offered councilors the chance to review the significance of the city’s comprehensive plan and financial feasibility impacts tied to project changes.
Councilors heard arguments from proponents and opponents of the proposed hotel and commercial complex to be sited at the former Nichols Boat Works on North First Street.
This round of presentations, from both sides, was offered in response to a recent Land Use Board of Appeals ruling on a case brought by Friends of the Waterfront that alleged errors in the city’s approvals of the project.
The Naito developers, represented by attorney Steve Naito, offered a detailed response to LUBA’s listed points of concerns — known as a remand.
In their response, the Naitos introduced new evidence tied to their acknowledgement of a revised 100-year flood plain elevation height. The increased elevation, confirmed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, necessitated changes to the Naito site plan.
During his 15-minute allotted response time to the Naito presentation, Friends attorney Brent Foster requested that council keep the record open and provide him adequate time to address to the new evidence. Foster also raised concerns about emergency road access to the site, based on the new flood plain elevation and proposed access road elevations.
Two additional community members, Heather Staten and Linda Maddox, were allowed to speak about concerns tied to the flood plain elevations.
The LUBA remand, the detailed arguments from both sides and later staff reports then led to a larger question for councilors to ponder: What is the nature of the city’s comprehensive plan and how does the council use that guidance differently than its codes and engineering studies?
A more complete article on both sides’ detailed presentations and the larger questions before council will be offered in Saturday’s edition of the News.
At the conclusion of the Naito remand hearing, Council agreed to keep the record open tied to the points within the LUBA remand and offered Friends 10 days to review the new evidence and prepare a response. The Naitos will likewise receive 10 days following receipt of the Friends’ response to prepare their rebuttal.
On the west end of town, work is progressing on the city’s efforts to improve traffic flow between the I-84 interchange at exit 62 and two main arteries into town, Country Club Road and Cascade Avenue.
Council addressed two realignment project issues with definitive decisions reached.
First, City Administrator Bob Francis informed council that a hoped-for creation of a secondary right-turn-only slip lane at the current intersection of Country Club and Cascade would require nearly $1.1 million dollars in additional cost for the city.
According to Francis, ODOT confirmed that retaining the existing soon-to-be decommissioned section of Country Club and converting it into a right-turn-only “slip lane” could be feasible, but the city would likely have to pay an additional $520,000 for the necessary changes to the existing plan.
In addition, said Francis, ODOT said $580,000 would then also be redirected from the allotted $3 million it has earmarked for the entire project in order to address its required changes. The city would lose that funding toward other aspects of the existing project. In total, the change would cost the city $1.1 million. Francis recommended that council terminate any further action toward creating the slip lane.
The four council members at the meeting, Brian McNamara, Laurent Picard, Ed Weathers and Carrie Nelson, along with Mayor Arthur Babtiz unanimously agreed to discontinue pursuit of the slip lane concept and to proceed with existing plans.
With the return to the previously approved realignment plan, discussion turned to the best way of identifying the soon-to-be-completed road segment that will connect the existing Country Club Road with Mt. Adams Avenue. Mt Adams is a new road under construction that will intersect with Cascade Avenue near Mid-Columbia Marine and Motor Sports at 3335 W. Cascade Ave. and will eventually connect through to the south with May Street.
According to Babitz, over the last few council meetings many conflicting community needs and concerns have been heard regarding the impacts tied to the new road segment name and address numbering selected.
Babitz outlined his desire to remain consistent with the current address grid guidelines and numbering system. He suggested that this would necessitate a new name for the segment rather than making the segment a simple extension of Country Club Road that would then bear out-of-sync address numbers.
Over some objection from two community members, the council agreed, deciding that the new segment will have its own name. City staff was asked to bring in three options for council consideration by the next slated meeting on April 22.
Francis confirmed that one of the names to be considered would be Hood River Avenue.
According to Francis, the realignment project is due to be completed by the end of the year but may finish as soon as Sept.