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Barrett Park stays open space

Parks Board will likely not appeal county denial, but holds land for future use

It appears that the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District’s quest to receive a permit for the development of Barrett Park is likely at an end.

During Parks and Rec’s regular meeting on Wednesday, Board Director Renee van de Griend made a motion that barring “a strong recommendation” from Parks and Rec’s attorney Michael Robinson, the district “will not plan to appeal” a Dec. 2 decision from the Hood River County Board of Commissioners to deny a conditional use permit for the park. The decision was passed unanimously by the Parks and Rec Board of Directors.

However, the board also voted unanimously on a resolution that “dedicated” the Barrett Park property at 4010 Barrett Drive “in perpetuity for park and recreation purposes.”

The votes come in the twilight of Parks and Rec’s year-and-a-half legal battle regarding the 31.4-acre park parcel located on the west side of Hood River. Situated on land zoned Exclusive Farm Use, the park’s proposal irked local orchardist Fritz von Lubken, who originally appealed the Hood River County Planning Department’s May 2012 decision to award a conditional use permit, arguing that the removal of high-value farmland from agricultural use set a bad precedent in the valley.

After bouncing between county governing bodies and the Oregon State Land Use Board of Appeals, the county commission voted down the park earlier this month, which was the second time it had done so officially.

During Parks and Rec’s meeting on Wednesday, District Director Lori Stirn expressed a lack of confidence that her agency would prevail with another LUBA appeal due to the county commission’s position on the conditional use permit for Barrett Park.

“If we would go to LUBA, spend the money, we would still have four commissioners who aren’t in favor of this particular development,” she said, advocating the parks board to “just put this to bed and then move on and continue to do our Parks and Rec stuff.”

Stirn and the board, however, still believed the park had value as open space for future generations and the board thus approved a resolution to keep the land for park and recreation purposes until the end of time. Stirn noted that a future Parks and Rec board could overturn the resolution if it wished.

“This is just a resolution to say: This board at this time believes that Barrett Park, it’s in the best interest of the community and the long-term vision of recreation for the valley that this stays an open space.”

Heather Staten, a member of the Hood River Valley Residents Committee and a vocal opponent of Barrett Park, was present at the Parks and Rec meeting and disagreed with the resolution. She advised the board that without the conditional use permit, the park’s development would be severely inhibited and benefit only a small amount of people, such as a local club that’s allowed by law to use the land for flying remote-controlled model airplanes.

“I think you need input from the community to see what they would like to see done with the property if it can’t be made into the park you envisioned in the first place,” Staten told the Parks and Rec board. “This is taxpayer money and I know that, like, a radio flyer field is pretty cool, but I think you’d have a hard time selling a $600,000 radio flying field to most of the people who pay taxes in this county.”

Van de Griend disagreed, viewing Barrett Park as a sound long-term investment, regardless of whatever shape the land may take decades down the road.

“We’ve got this fabulous piece of property and I think in 20 years, people will say thank you, because the urban growth area will have marched out that way and you saved this for us and it’s not going to be all houses; it’ll be a beautiful park instead.”

With the conditional use permit out of the picture, Stirn said Parks and Rec was now in the process of drafting a new proposal to see what features could be developed while still adhering to the conditions of a $494,000 state grant awarded for the park’s development. Stirn expected the new proposal would be submitted to the planning department sometime early next year.

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