City responds to LUBA Naito remand and new evidence

Public may comment on waterfront project at June 10 meeting

A rendering of the commercial building (center) and hotel (far right) project6 propsed for the Hood River waterfront by Naito Development.

Credit: Surround Architecture
A rendering of the commercial building (center) and hotel (far right) project6 propsed for the Hood River waterfront by Naito Development.

At its May 28 meeting, the Hood River City Council considered two aspects of the proposed development of the Nichols Boat Basin waterfront area by Naito Development LLC.

The project would create a 20,000-square-foot commercial building alongside an 88-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel on city-regulated property adjacent to the exit 63 overpass.

Friends of the Hood River Waterfront, a nonprofit group opposed to aspects of the proposed development, has maintained scrutiny of the project and has filed multiple objections at the city level.

One of the group’s objections reached the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, otherwise known as LUBA. LUBA returned its findings to the city on March 13. Since then additional concerns have been cited by both Friends and the Hood River Valley Residents Committee, another nonprofit focused on land and environmental preservation in Hood River.

Brief history of the LUBA ruling:

Friends provided a long list of procedural and legal interpretation “errors” allegedly committed by the council during its review and preliminary site plan permitting of the project.

LUBA selected, from the Friends allegations, a short list of sustained errors for the council to respond to.

LUBA asked the city to determine if one section of the Hood River Comprehensive Plan should be read as “mandatory approval criteria” for the Naito project. The particular section pertained to a designated floodplain combining zone.

The city council agreed that the Comprehensive Plan was not “mandatory,” but rather an overall guide under which city ordinance and regulation had already be developed.

LUBA also asked the council to determine how Hood River Municipal Code 17.16.040(C) might be applied to the project in light of recently submitted evidence by the project opponents.

That code states that when evaluating a site plan the council should seek to ensure that “The use should have minimal adverse impacts on the land and water quality.”

Friends cited several concerns including issues tied to the siting of the development and its access roads within varying definition of high-water marks and flood zones; the release of toxins from the disturbed basin sediments; the addition of fill; the elevation of the access road below 100-year flood plain lines and others.

HRVRC also cited concerns tied to the Comprehensive Plan flood plain language; the potential violation of surrounding property-owner rights and the potential of increasing flood risks.

City Planner Cindy Walbridge and City Attorney Dan Kearns responded to each of the LUBA requirements and additional objection points by Friends and HRVRC.

In addition to citing previous refuting documentation tied to each objection, city staff added some new conditions to the site plan approval. In particular, the access road to the new development will now be required to be elevated above the 100-year flood plain level.

Foster then alleged that conflicting city staff statements precluded public comment at prior meetings, preventing some interested parties from participating in the LUBA response, violating their right to be heard.

On the advice of Kearns, the council agreed to keep the record open on the LUBA remand through the June 10 city council meeting.

A second Naito project item generated objections from Friends attorney Brent Foster later in the evening.

Walbridge brought forth a city ordinance, based on previous city council discussions, that would vacate (give up) a partial easement on the Port-owned access road connecting to The Spit. The easement would revert to the Port, which will then complete its sale agreement with Naito.

In exchange for the vacation of its partial easement, the city will receive permanent, full public easement access across the Naito development allowing access to The Spit.

Foster argued that the ordinance before the council contained changes that were not part of the mandatory pre-vote seven-day public posting, and should require additional public comment.

The council disagreed.

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