The owner of a local vacation rental business is upset over the county’s approval of a ski resort park and ride planned for the community of Mount Hood and intends to appeal the decision at the state level.
Libby Rossknecht, owner of the Mt. Hood Guest House, located near the intersection of Highway 35 and Cooper Spur Road, is concerned that the park and ride, which would be located directly behind the guest house, would negatively affect her business.
The approved plans call for a gravel lot with room for 249 parking spaces for guests and employees of Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort, who would board buses at the lot that would shuttle skiers and snowboarders up to the resort located approximately 20 miles away. Access to the lot would be via Corner Loop Road, which runs from Hwy. 35 to Cooper Spur, directly across the street from the Mount Hood Town Hall.
“This is quite the devastation,” Rossknecht said of the parking lot. “The loop they’re talking about routing traffic through is right in my backyard.”
Rossknecht spent several years and “a lot of money” restoring the early-20th century two-story home, which opened up as the Mt. Hood Guest House in July 2012. She said she rents out the home for those looking for a “family vacation rental.”
Rossknecht is concerned about the congestion and noise the parking lot might bring and how it would affect her business, as well as the community of Mount Hood. She said she and others in the community are currently collecting signatures for a petition she intends to bring to the county. Rossknecht added a letter of appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) is currently being drafted and will be submitted soon.
The land on which the parking lot is planned is currently owned by Braden Hurt, a Vancouver, Wash., resident, through a limited liability company called, Allurt, Co., LLC. The land consists of a largely flat, grassy area with large coniferous trees that would be removed in order to construct the parking lot. Rossknecht said she only learned about the proposal when the property owner contacted her over a covenant issue pertaining to the land. By then, the county had already approved the park and ride.
Dave Tragethon, executive director of social media and public relations for Mt. Hood Meadows, said the parking lot is especially needed to deal with peak ski days when all the other parking lots at the resort are filled. In the past, Tragethon said, the resort has set up a park and ride at the Mt. Hood Country store, across the street from Rossknecht’s property, which held approximately 40-50 vehicles. He added the resort would stop using the Country Store parking lot once the Corner Loop park and ride is constructed.
Tragethon said Meadows is currently seeking approval from the Mount Hood Corner Owner Association Board for the parking lot, which he said would be planned for construction over the coming months, as it is intended for use this winter. He noted Meadows has “met with several local landowners and we remain open to meeting with any landowners that may have concerns or suggestions regarding this proposed development.” He added, though, that he thought the park and ride would be a benefit, not a drawback, to the community of Mount Hood.
“Our improvements will not only enhance shuttle operations to and from Mt. Hood Meadows, reducing traffic congestion on Highway 35, (but) it can potentially provide opportunities for neighboring businesses for seasonal customer parking,” Tragethon said.
Rossknecht was not convinced, however, that the park and ride would be good for her particular business, noting she would “probably end up selling it.” She also took umbrage with the fact that not she, nor the public, was notified by the Hood River County Planning Department about the parking lot.
According to Eric Walker, principal planner for the county, the parking lot is an outright allowed use due to the commercial zoning of the parcel and does not require a public hearing or public notification. Notice of the application was sent out to affected agencies, including county and state agencies as well as local fire, water, and irrigation districts.
Rossknecht said she still thinks both she and the public should have been made aware.
“Even if they came to the conclusion that they didn’t have to have public notice on the deal, it wasn’t the right thing to do,” she said.