Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Nichols Landing (shown here) would consist of an 88-room four-story hotel as well as a 20,000-square-foot commercial building. Conditions of the settlement agreement now call for Naito Development to install a stormwater system that is designed to withstand a 25-year flood event in an attempt to minimize runoff into the Nichols Boat Basin.
After over two years of appeals and nearly as many in negotiations, the legal disputes over the proposed Nichols Landing development have been put to rest.
Naito Development and Friends of the Hood River Waterfront recently completed and signed settlement agreements that will allow the 88-room hotel and 20,000-square-foot commercial building planned for the Nichols Boat Basin to move forward, while also providing for the creation of a passive park designed to protect riparian habitat.
Both parties were pleased a settlement had been reached.
“We’re glad it’s all signed and done with and behind us,” said Naito Development head Bob Naito. “I think it’s going to be a great project.”
“This agreement reflects the reality that Nichols Basin is important both because of its value for public recreation and as salmon habitat,” said Friends attorney Brent Foster.
The agreement stems from land use appeals Friends filed back in 2012 that claimed the development would have harmed salmon habitat due to its proximity to the boat basin. The group also argued the development created a flood hazard situation.
In a deal that was mediated by Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz, who had recused himself from land use hearings in an attempt to broker a compromise, Friends agreed back in September of this year to drop their pending land use appeals against Naito Development. In exchange, the Naitos agreed to move their development farther back from the water and sell the portion of their property that borders the shore of the basin to the city’s Urban Renewal Agency, which would in turn help develop the land into a “low-impact, undeveloped” public park.
Attorneys spent the last couple months ironing out the remaining details of the arrangement, which were spelled out in an “easement and equitable servitudes” agreement that was released early this week.
The agreement has a number of stipulations designed to preserve public access to the basin while also limiting development. For instance, the deal restricts both the Naitos and any future owner of the property from proposing or seeking approval for a cable park, which was part of Naito Development’s original plan, or a “similarly conflicting use of the waters of Nichols Basin that would adversely affect existing recreational and aesthetic uses.” It also prevents the proposed development and any future expansions from collectively exceeding 100,000 square feet of total building space, capping the hotel at 70,000 square feet and the commercial building at 30,000 square feet.
Another notable proviso of the agreement restricts stormwater discharge into the Nichols Boat Basin and requires the Naitos to construct a stormwater injection well that is “engineered to store and infiltrate a 25-year 24-hour storm event” that assumes an infiltration rate of 2.5 inches per hour.
Foster noted the stormwater condition was particularly stringent, referring to it as “likely one of the most protective stormwater control plans for any hotel in the Northwest.”
Naito agreed, saying the requirement “way exceeds the city’s stormwater standards.”
The agreement also gives environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper a conservation equitable servitude, which allows Riverkeeper to conduct riparian restoration along the basin shoreline and replace invasive species with native plants. It also allows Riverkeeper to serve in a watchdog capacity to make sure the equitable servitudes, which are listed as “permanent restrictions,” are maintained. However, it does not “create any responsibilities of any kind” for Riverkeeper. Mayor Arthur Babitz said the city is looking to partner with Riverkeeper on the riparian restoration project.
With the agreement in place, Naito said he’s moving forward with “putting the final changes to the civil plans” to account for the alterations to the stormwater system, which will require some utility lines to be relocated. He added he then will “have to hope for some dry weather,” but is aiming to start construction in several weeks.
“After the first of the year we should be going,” Naito said.