State Court of Appeals extends Morrison Park rezone review

On July 16, the Oregon Court of Appeals ordered an extension of time for issuing a decision on the challenged rezone of Morrison Park by the City of Hood River. The city rezoned the Park in June 2017 to allow housing development on the park acreage, and the rezone was appealed by Hood River resident Susan Crowley.

In issuing its decision, the court noted “this case is sufficiently unusual and complex due to the existence of novel issues of law” that additional time for “adequate consideration of the issues” was required beyond the usual 91-day period. The court’s order offered no new deadline date for its decision.

In March 2018, the city signed an agreement to sell the park for $1 to the potential developer at the developer’s sole option. The acreage of Morrison Park is conservatively estimated at over $1 million in fair market value, and is popular among city residents who walk, bike and play disc golf on its fields, noted Crowley in a press release on Monday.

“Until this case is decided, both the proposed housing development and any potential $1 sale should remain on hold,” said Crowley. “The park should remain available for the public to enjoy at least until the Court of Appeals rules, and possibly even after that if the case is further appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.”

“We are following it closely,” said City Manager Steve Wheeler on Tuesday. “It means it will take more time, and we are trying not to infer anything either way. They might be delaying because of too much work, or it could be that if something substantive is coming out of it that we would look at and try to correct; they might say we need to go back and look at part of the process.”

Crowley said, “Despite its green rhetoric, the city has so far demonstrated inconsistent commitment to preserving its existing parks and weak commitment to developing new ones,” said Crowley. “Hopefully, the Court of Appeals will affirm how essential parks and public open spaces are to small cities that must deal with rapid population growth. If it does, perhaps the city will accept its guidance.”

Wheeler responded by noting that the park remains open to the public pending legal action and completion of the transaction and adding, “We are not the parks builder in many instances, most of that is done by the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District, and we are taking active steps to collaborate with the district on a master plan for park development and the commitment to having trails and natural areas an integral part of the (pending) Westside Concept Plan.”

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