In a debate that has now lasted well over a year, proponents and opponents of a development slated for the south shore of the Nichols Boat Basin continued their verbal sparring Monday evening during a public hearing over whether or not the proposal has met land use criteria.
At the conclusion of the two-hour Hood River Planning Commission meeting, the issue was unresolved due to a flurry of new evidence submitted prior to the hearing and a request to leave the record open, requiring the hearing to be continued next week.
The subject of the Monday night meeting was Nichols Landing, a four-story, 88-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel and a 20,000-square-foot retail building that is to be constructed by Portland developer Naito Development LLC.
Naito Development has been trying to develop the property for years but has encountered opposition from the Friends of the Hood River Waterfront. The proposal was initially approved by the city for development, but Friends has appealed the decision twice to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), which has remanded the proposal as many times to the city.
In its most recent remand — the subject of Monday’s meeting — LUBA stated that the city did not properly apply areas of its comprehensive plan when evaluating the proposal, specifically “Goal 7, Natural Disaster Implementation Strategy 4,” which requires that, “No permanent structure shall be erected within a flood hazard area unless the structure or the area meets the criteria set forth in the [Flood Plain] overlay zone.” LUBA added that development proponents must provide during the meeting a description of the proposed use, the impact on the area, a diagram of the proposed structure and the relation to the floodplain, and proposed mitigating measures in accordance with this section.
A skeleton crew of Commission Chair Laurie Stephens and Commissioners Jennifer Gulizia and Nikki Hollatz heard arguments due to the absence of Commissioner Bill Irving and the recusals of Commissioners Nathan DeVol and Casey Weeks. DeVol and Weeks indicated they had conflicts since they had expressed interest in potentially acquiring space in the commercial building of Nichols Landing.
Steve Naito, of Naito Development, told commissioners the development adhered to the requirements of the city’s comprehensive plan, which he said included such things as providing proper access to emergency vehicles, requiring buildings to have a flood-proof design, to not impact stream flows, and other requirements.
Brent Foster, attorney for Friends, argued that the development didn’t go far enough to address the impacts on the basin, particularly on flooding and on salmon populations he stated were present in the basin. He noted that federal agencies have suggesting adding more restrictions on developments in order to protect salmon and requested a 100-foot setback for the Nichols Landing project.
In his rebuttal, Naito dismissed the federal suggestions as “aspirational documents,” and were not currently part of the code and reiterated that the remand was “not about how the FP Zone affects fish,” but rather whether the “health and safety of persons and property” were adequately addressed by the proposal.
Foster requested the record remain open for the next seven days, allowing both parties to submit and respond to new evidence. The deadline for the parties to submit evidence is 5 p.m., Monday, July 14. The public hearing will continue on Tuesday, July 15 at 5:30 p.m., at city hall at 211 Second St. The commission will likely deliberate on the issue and could possibly take action at the conclusion of the meeting.