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Friends of HRW appeal Naito ruling

Appeal heard at Aug. 11 council meeting

A hotel and retail development slated for the south end of the Nichols Boat Basin is on hold once again after opponents appealed a decision by the Hood River Planning Commission that would have allowed the project to move forward.

Earlier this week, Friends of the Hood River Waterfront filed two appeals with the city regarding Nichols Landing: a proposed development at the end of the boat basin that would consist of a 60,000-square-foot, four-story, 88-room hotel and a 20,000-square-foot retail building. Nichols Landing is the project of Naito Development LLC, a Portland development firm.

This week’s filing is not the first time Friends has appealed a decision regarding Nichols Landing. Over the past two years, the development has been subject to appeals and bounced back and forth between city government and state appeal agencies, which have twice-remanded the decision to the city. Earlier this month, the city planning commission heard arguments on the latest remand from the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) and determined the development could receive a land use permit from the city, subject to conditions.

Friends have cited a number of issues with the project over the past two years, but generally have been concerned with both procedural errors the group has accused the city of making, as well as the siting of the building, which is located within a 100-year floodplain.

On July 28 of this year, Friends, through their attorney Brent Foster of Hood River, filed appeals challenging both the planning commission’s decision on the LUBA remand and the city’s issuance of a floodplain development permit for the project.

In the filing, Foster, on behalf of Friends, states the grounds for the appeal are “based on a lack of substantial evidence, inconsistencies with the City’s land use approval criteria, Hood River Comprehensive Plan and procedures required under City and State law, as well as, other City and State land use requirements.”

Foster argues the planning commission made several errors in its decision on the remand, claiming the commission “failed to consider or address” or did not receive “substantial evidence” proving the development’s compliance with land use codes related to proper emergency access, the impact of fill on flood stream flows, proving the buildings are flood proof, constructing a building within a floodplain, and other issues. He also argues that the size of the project has changed due to inconsistencies with the stated square footage of the hotel and that this should have resulted in the city requesting an amended application from Naito Development.

Foster also claims in the appeal of the city’s issuance of the floodplain development permit that staff made several errors in doing so. He argues the decision to issue the permit should have processed as a land use decision, not a ministerial one, “since many of the criteria at issue require the exercise of considerable judgment and interpretation of the building official.” He also states the city “lacks site specific base flood elevation data for (the) Hood River,” that the project is “not reasonably safe from flooding,” that the city’s code is “currently not in compliance with FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) flood plain development standards,” as well as other issues.

Anticipating the likelihood of an appeal, the city, at its previous meeting regarding Nichols Landing, set a tentative date for a hearing on the appeal of the planning commission’s decision. The appeal will go before the Hood River City Council at its next meeting, which occurs Monday, Aug. 11, 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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